Still on the Mend, Greg Oden Vows One Day to Be an All-Star
But there is one thing Oden believes should be heard when he speaks.
"When I get out there 100 percent, everybody will see what kind of player I am,'' Oden said in an interview with FanHouse. "When I get 100 percent and I get to improve on the court, I feel I can be an All-Star.''
Oden has a long way to go to get there, but it's hardly unreasonable. He doesn't turn 23 until January, there's a dearth of centers in the NBA and Oden was playing some pretty good ball before he went down Dec. 6, 2009 with a knee injury that ended last season and from which he has yet to return.
Oden, taken No. 1 by the Trail Blazers in 2007 while Durant, the Oklahoma City star forward, went No. 2, already has missed a Walton- and Bowie-like 164 of 246 possible NBA games. He sat out his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee and then came the surgery for the fractured left patella suffered when he went down 10 months ago against Houston.
"It's just tough,'' Oden said of his latest injury. "This is difficult because you can't really know what the timetable is. If I get out there and I'm not 100 percent, I'm not helping the team. I'm hurting them. So that's what I'm waiting on, to get to 100 percent.
"But I'm definitely keeping my spirits up, especially being around all (his teammates). They definitely pick me up a little more. I'm always staying positive.''
For now, the Trail Blazers have given no timetable on when Oden might be back. They won't even speculate.
"There's not a date at all,'' said Portland coach Nate McMillan. "We want to just rehab him and listen to the doctors and listen to his body, and not put a time frame on when he will return. We don't want to put pressure on ourselves. The thing is, when he does come back, we hope that he's strong, he's confident and he's ready to go where he won't have setbacks.''
Oden has been doing court work with Blazers center Joel Przybilla, who was lost for the season with a ruptured right patella tendon suffered Dec. 22, 2009 at Dallas, less than three weeks after Oden had gone down, and ruptured the same tendon when he slipped in the shower last month. Przybilla actually is likely to make it back before Oden, saying he "definitely'' will be playing by November.
McMillan said the next step for Oden is doing three-on-three drills. For now, Oden and Przybilla are picking one another up during workouts.
"When you're going through knee surgery, a lot of days it's tough to get motivated,'' Przybilla said. "We motivate each other. You've got somebody you can compete against who plays the same position. We encourage each other. It really helps.''
Przybilla has been with the Trail Blazers since the day Oden arrived after one year at Ohio State. He's spent more time in the NBA than anybody going against Oden, and believes him when the big fellow talks about eventually being an NBA All-Star.
"Oh, yeah, definitely,'' Przybilla said of the 7-foot, 250-pound Oden. "I think he'll be very dominant. I've been up and close and personal with him. When he gets healthy, he'll be as dominant as you'll see in the league (at center). Believe me. He was showing last year when he was healthy that he was coming around.''
In the five games before he went down last December, Oden averaged 15.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. He finished last season with averages of 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.29 blocks in 21 games, up from 8.9 points. 7.0 rebounds and 1.13 blocks in 61 games in 2008-09.
Unfair or not, Oden has had to try to block out talk about previous Portland centers whose bodies failed them after being very high picks. Following his No. 1 selection in 1974, Walton missed 201 of 410 possible games with Portland over five seasons, although he did lead the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA crown and was named MVP the next season. After being drafted No. 2 in 1984, Bowie missed 271 of 410 possible games with the Trail Blazers in five seasons.
Oden also has had to try to ignore talk that the Trail Blazers should've selected Durant instead. Since going No. 2 in 2007 to Seattle (which moved to Oklahoma City in 2008), all Durant has done is lead the NBA in scoring last season and be named by league general managers as the leading candidate this season for MVP.
"I don't listen to it,'' Oden said of words from the naysayers.
Portland center Marcus Camby, though, said Oden does find some talk "frustrating.'' Camby, 36, often counsels the young Oden.
Camby was the No. 2 pick in the 1996 draft before having a number of injuries early in his career. Camby never has been an All-Star despite high expectations, but he has carved out a solid career, four times leading the NBA in blocks.
"I always talk to him about injuries,'' Camby said. "I had injuries early in my career and you just have to adapt to it and pretty much just keep working and not really worry about what's being said about yourself or about you being injury prone. (The two talk about) just whatever it may be, the pressures of being a No. 1 pick.
"I just feel personally like, if he's healthy, he's going to prove everybody wrong. There's been a lot of talk now because the way Durant is playing now ... So everybody's like, 'Should (Portland) have picked Durant because of how Durant is performing right now?' But you really can't gauge that at the time. I know it's frustrating on (Oden) to have to hear all that talk about, 'Portland have should have took this guy or that guy.' But, like I said, once he gets back out on the court, he's going to prove a lot of people wrong.''
Oden agrees. He firmly believes one day he will be an NBA All-Star.
"Yes,'' he said. "When all is said and done.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson