Oden experiences "setback" ane signs reduced contract

A physical evaluation has the Blazers less certain that he will return to the floor last year

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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TUALATIN, Ore. — Whether it’s meniscus, a patella, an ACL or a microfracture surgery, injuries this time of year always seem to bring the Trail Blazers on their knees.

It appears, once again, that Portland will experience disappointment with center Greg Oden.

Thursday, the 23-year-old said he was going to sign the one-year, $8.9 million qualifying offer that would keep him in a Blazers uniform and make him an unrestricted free agent next year. Friday, Oden and Portland agreed to a one year deal — but for an undisclosed lower amount.

The reason? The organization is not so sure he will be able to be play this year.

“Following Greg’s most recent physical examination and evaluation, we’ve determined that he has suffered a setback,” said Blazers president Larry Miller. “We’re hopeful, but less confident that he will return to the court this season. We’ve stood by Greg from the day he was drafted and we continue to do so now with this agreement.”

Oden missed all of last season due to a microfracture surgery on his left knee. He has played in just 82 games in his four seasons since being taken as the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. Thursday, it was reported that Oden had been cleared to partake in light practice drills, and that the Blazers were hoping for him to return to game action in either January or February. But upon closer inspection — the details of which are limited — Portland determined that Oden’s knees were more fragile than expected, which cast doubt upon his return.

Asked if Oden would need surgery, acting Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan said "I can't get into the specifics of that."

Needless to say, Oden was upset.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the setback, but I’m as determined as ever to return to the court,” said Oden in a press release. “I appreciate the support of the Trail Blazers and our fans and that they continue to stand behind me.”

Oden has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his 82 games. Last year, he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks despite playing fewer than 24 minutes per game.

Buchanan showed no regret about deciding to take another chance on Oden despite perpetual health problems.

“With Greg, it’s worth the risk,” Buchanan said.