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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 02/21/2012

Trail Blazers center Greg Oden out for the season after third microfracture knee surgery

It was one of the most highly debated NBA draft day decisions in the last decade.


Greg Oden on crutches has been a frustratingly frequent sight for the Trail Blazers and their fans. (Rick Bowmer - AP)
The 7-foot man-child who many thought could become the next dominant center in the league or the lean, lanky scoring sensation. Oden or Durant.

In the end, the Portland Trail Blazers went with the big man, selecting Ohio State center Greg Oden with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. The then-Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder), took Texas swingman Kevin Durant at No. 2.

You know how the rest of the story goes. With Durant leading the way, the Thunder currently lead the Western Conference. Meantime Oden can’t seem to stay on the court.

On Monday, Oden’s injury-riddled career took another downward turn. During a minor procedure to clear out debris Oden’s left knee, a surgeon determined Portland’s center would require a third microfracture surgery, ending his season before it began.

The surgery was the second on Oden’s left knee — the same knee that required surgery for a fractured kneecap. Oden has played only 82 games in his five-year NBA career, and has not seen game action since Dec. 5, 2009.

Compare Oden’s 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game to Durant’s career totals of 26.1 points and 6.5 rebounds (in 346 games), and you can see why Sam Bowie may now have some company atop the Rose City’s list of least favorite Trail Blazers.

“It’s hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He’s a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him,” Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said in a prepared statement. “We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time.”

The Blazers restructured their deal with the former top pick after he experienced another setback during training camp. He will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

“I’m sure he’s saying, ‘Why Me?’ Sometimes in life, things like that happen, and you wonder why it’s happening to you,” coach Nate McMillan said about Oden before the game. “Some of these injuries have occurred, not only on the floor but off the floor. There’s really not an explanation for why, or sometimes how they’re happening. I’m sure it’s been a frustrating start for him.”

It’s been frustrating for Oden’s teammates, too, but at this point, he’s become little more than another suit on the end of the bench.

As the team’s acting general manager, Chad Buchanan said, Oden has ”recovered from a couple of these before... so there’s no reasong to think he couldn’t come back as long as he shows the work ethic and desrire that he’s had in the past to come back.”

But do you expect him to ever get back to 100 percent? Will he eventually become an impact player in the NBA? And if not, where might he rank among the biggest draft busts of all time?

By  |  10:58 AM ET, 02/21/2012

 
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