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TUALATIN, Ore. — They were the photographs that would not go away.
And so Trail Blazers center Greg Oden was forced to publicly address private nude photos of himself that made waves on the internet.
“I would like to apologize to everybody: Portland, fans, the organization,” said Oden, during a hastily arranged press conference Tuesday evening at the team’s practice facility. “It was very embarrassing. It was something that happened over a year and a half ago. ... I’m very sorry, and I’m definitely embarrassed for my family and everybody around me.”
Walking with a brown wooden cane and wearing a red jumpsuit, a soft-spoken Oden answered questions about the photos for more than eight minutes.
He said he has severed his relationship with a “ladyfriend” who he originally sent the photos to, and added that he hopes that all traces of the revealing images will be removed from the Web.
“(They) were just for her, and definitely were meant to keep private,” Oden, 22, said.
Asked for his reaction when he first saw the photos, Oden said: “My heart dropped.”
The 7-foot, 285-pound center stated that he received a phone call about 6 a.m. Tuesday informing him of the situation.
“When I actually got up and saw (them), it was very, very embarrassing and hurtful,” Oden said.
Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard briefly acknowledged Oden’s photos following a morning shootaround, referring to the situation as “disappointing.”
Pritchard said the organization has gone to great lengths to warn its players about the downsides of new social media and the harm it can cause high-profile athletes such as Oden.
“You have to be careful with what you do and who you trust,” Oden said.
Tuesday’s drama marked another struggle for Oden, whose tantalizing blend of overpowering muscle and raw basketball talent has been hampered by two major knee surgeries in three seasons.
It was also yet another setback for a Blazers organization whose once-promising season has been derailed by an alarming series of injuries and health concerns.
Oden, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, has missed the Blazers’ last 25 games following a season-ending knee injury. He fractured his left patella Dec. 5 during a home game against the Houston Rockets.
Oden had kept a low profile since the injury, speaking in detail with the media only once — Dec. 17 — and referring to his fractured patella as a “freak accident.”
But the publicity of his private photos forced him to suddenly come forward and address the situation.
“I know it was a thing of the past, and I know I’ve grown from this,” he said. “And I’m definitely still a really good guy, and I’m going to keep putting that out there.
“And even if it involves other people, I just hope they learn you’ve got to be careful with what you do and who you trust.”