Blazers extend qualifying offer to Oden

Blazers’ expected move makes injury-plagued center a free agent

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 
photoPortland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden.

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It is not surprising, but it is now official: The Trail Blazers have extended an $8.8 million qualifying offer to center Greg Oden.

The offer makes the 23-year-old a restricted free agent, which allows the Blazers to match offers from other teams.

Portland had until 9 p.m. Thursday to extend the qualifying offer.

“We’ve stood behind Greg Oden every day since he became a Trail Blazer and that continues with today’s announcement,” said Trail Blazers president Larry Miller. “Despite the setbacks he’s experienced, he continues to be resilient in working tirelessly on his rehabilitation. We’re all very encouraged with not only his progress, but with his commitment and determination to return to the basketball court.”

Oden has earned $19 million in salary from the Blazers over the past four years despite playing just 82 games -- the equivalent of one regular season. He was the No. 1 overall selection of the 2007 draft but did not step on the floor that year after undergoing season-ending microfracture surgery in September. He played 61 games the following season, in which he averaged 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds, then played 21 games in the next year — averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds before suffering a season-ending left patella rupture.

He has yet to recover from said injury, enduring another microfracture surgery last November.

League rules dictated that the Blazers had to offer 125 percent of Oden’s last salary. Once the NBA’s labor dispute is settled, teams will be free to make contract offers Oden’s way, after which the Blazers will have seven days to match.

In other Trail Blazers moves:

• A $1.1 million qualifying offer was extended to point guard Patty Mills.

• Third-year options were exercised on forward Luke Babbitt and guard Elliot Williams, both of whom were first-round draft picks for the Blazers last year.

As is the situation with Oden, the qualifying offer does not guarantee that Mills will be in a Blazers uniform next year, but allows Portland to match other teams’ offers for the third-year guard. Mills, 22, has appeared in 74 games over the past two years for Portland and has averaged 5.1 points and 1.5 assists.

Babbitt, who was taken 16th last year, will make $1.9 million dollars in the 2012-13 season. Williams, taken 22nd, will earn $1.4 million.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com