A focused, upbeat Oden says injury was a 'freak accident'
TUALATIN, Ore. — Greg Oden placed his crutches against a wall, slowly turned around, and faced the media.
Soon, the Portland Trail Blazers center was discussing everything from his mental state to the most-vivid details he recalled following the moment he collapsed and hit the ground during the first quarter of a Dec. 5 home game against the Houston Rockets.
Oden fractured his left patella that night while jumping up to defend Rockets guard Aaron Brooks. He underwent season-ending surgery the following day.
“When I saw my kneecap broken in half, it was kind of like, ‘OK,’ ” Oden said. “But the crazy thing was, it actually wasn’t that much pain. I actually screamed because I saw it. I was like, ‘Oh, shoot. What is that?’ ”
Thursday, Oden made his first Blazers-related appearance since the setback. He sounded upbeat and appeared focused. And he stated that, while his second major injury in three seasons is “frustrating,” there are also bigger things in the world to worry about, such as the health of Portland owner Paul Allen and assistant coach Maurice Lucas.
“An injury’s nothing that you’re not going to come back from,” said Oden, following a morning shootaround at the team’s practice facility.
He added: “This is just a minor thing in life.”
Oden referred to his fractured patella as a “freak accident,” and said he was not aware of any pre-existing injury that could have contributed to the non-impact break.
“I’ve never heard that,” Oden said.
Oden was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee before playing an NBA game, though, and missed the entire 2007-08 season.
He returned in 2008-09 to play in 61 contests as a rookie, averaging 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds during an inconsistent, injury-plagued campaign.
Oden sprained his foot Oct. 28, 2008, during a season-opening road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. He then chipped his left patella during a Feb. 12 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and his eventual return to a Blazers team that won 54 games and made the NBA Playoffs was questioned at the time.
The former Ohio State standout was playing the best basketball of his career prior to this season’s injury. He won the team’s starting center spot during training camp. And he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 60.5 percent from the field as he started 21 games.
After collapsing against the Rockets, Oden said he never thought “Why me?” But he acknowledged that the idea of “not again” crossed his mind.
“Somebody told me …‘God lets these things happen to people who can come back from them,’ ” Oden said.
“He only does that to people who are strong enough to come back from them. So, that’s definitely … keeping me in good spirits.”
Oden stated that he has received the full support of his teammates and coaches since his season-ending injury. In addition, his energy has increased, and he is not taking as much pain medication.
“They’ve all really kept me in good spirits. A lot of support from everybody,” Oden said. “But they definitely have a lot to worry about with the season going on. So, I just try to not be all bothersome to them.”
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Oden “needed” to speak with the press. McMillan stated that Oden had intentionally been given time to recover alone, and then was allowed more time in preparing to discuss his injury with the media.
“He’s been around. We’ve seen him at practice,” said McMillan, who added that Oden will not travel with the team on it’s upcoming four-game road trip. Oden was not the only big-name Blazer who addressed the media Thursday, though.
Former Portland coach Dr. Jack Ramsay attended the morning shootaround and spoke with the team afterward.
Ramsay, who coached the Blazers’ 1977 NBA championship team, said he saw a parallel between this season’s injury-plagued Portland squad and one he coached in 1978 that succumbed to injuries.
“This is life in the NBA,” Ramsay said. “Nobody feels sorry for you. In fact they relish the idea that you don’t have as many weapons as normal. So, you have to counteract that.”
Ramsay stated that he told the Blazers to hold the fort, stick together and unite as one.
McMillan said the advice was sound.
“We have to continue to believe that, with what we have, we can win,” McMillan said. “And I believe we’re going to have to play close to perfect basketball with our group in order to have a chance to do that. But it’s possible.”