Whether Greg Oden can still make an impact as a Trail Blazer remains a great unknown. But this much is true — it’s not an impossibility.
Multiple sources have reported that the injury-plagued center has signed Portland’s one-year, $8.9 million qualifying offer, which will keep him in a Blazers jersey through the end of the season and make him an unrestricted free agent next year.
Had Oden not accepted the offer, he would have opened himself up to the market as a restricted free agent today, in which the Blazers would have had three days to match another team’s offer.
Oden, who has played just 82 games in four seasons with the Blazers, is recovering from the microfracture surgery on his left knee that sidelined him for all of last year.
A previous knee injury ended his season on Dec, 5, 2009, meaning the former No. 1 overall pick has not played in more than two years.
And according to The Oregonian, which spoke with him in Vail, Colo., Thursday, Oden still feels that there is unfinished business in the Rose City.
“I want to go out there, and I know I can do it. I want to show it, and I definitely want to show it in Portland, because I have been there and they have been with me from the start,” Oden said. “So that’s the number one thing, to go out there and show them what I can do.”
The 23-year-old, who has collected $19 million from the Blazers since being drafted in 2007, has shown flashes of superb play when healthy.
In the 2009-2010 season, Oden averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing fewer than 24 minutes per game. Granted, his inability to stay out of foul trouble contributed greatly to his limited court time, but his stats per 36 minutes were on an All-Star level.
Then again, with Oden, the phrase “when he’s healthy” has an almost comical ring to it given how susceptible his knees have been to injury.
The Blazers do not expect Oden to return to play in a game until at least January, and possibly February. And the grind of this condensed yet demanding schedule is not exactly suited for someone trying to ease his way back into the flow.
That said, the Oregonian reported that Oden, who can run, pivot and cut, has been cleared to take part in limited practice activities when training camp begins for Portland Friday.
The paper also quoted Ralph Reiff, the executive director of the St. Vincent Sports Performance Center in Indianapolis— where Oden spent much of the summer in rehab — who said he expects the center to not only recover, but return to dominant form.
“I’m biased, but Greg Oden at some point in time is going to be an extraordinary member of a basketball team,” Ralph Reiff said. “When that is, Portland I’m sure would like to figure out. But I will say this: I think Greg is more focused and more mature – not that he was ever immature –but I feel really, really good about where Greg is at mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.”
Blazers acting general manager Chad Buchanan said he could not comment on the signing.