Blazers C Oden will have another knee surgery

For the third time in four years, Greg Oden’s knees have

betrayed him.

The Portland Trail Blazers hastily called a press conference

Wednesday night to announce that Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007

draft, will miss the season after he has microfracture surgery on

his left knee.

Oden’s rookie year was postponed because of similar surgery on

his right knee, and last season he broke his left kneecap early in

December and again required surgery.

He was still rehabbing when the latest problem was

discovered.

”As you can expect, this young man is devastated about not

having the opportunity to play this season, being so close to

getting back on the floor and just all of a sudden, this situation

comes up and it’s like, here we go again for him,” Portland coach

Nate McMillan said.

Oden’s latest surgery is scheduled for Friday in Vail, Colo. The

microfracture procedure will repair damaged cartilage that is not

related to the kneecap injury, the team said.

Blazers trainer Jay Jensen said the latest problem with Oden’s

knee became apparent about two weeks ago when he experienced some

pain and fluid in the joint. Soon thereafter, an MRI revealed the

damage.

”We sat there and it was like we’d been kicked in the

stomach,” Jensen said, choking up. ”It felt like hearing someone

close to us had died.”

The 22-year-old Oden has often has been compared to former

Portland center Sam Bowie, whom the Blazers famously selected in

front of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. The Blazers picked Oden

instead of Kevin Durant, who went to the Oklahoma City franchise

and has blossomed into one of the NBA’s best players.

Another Portland big man, Bill Walton, was selected by the

Blazers with the No. 1 pick in the 1974 draft, but he was dogged by

a broken nose, foot, wrist and leg over his first two seasons

before helping the team to the NBA championship in 1977.

Oden has seemingly been cursed since shortly before his rookie

season, when trouble in his right knee prompted surgery the first

time.

He showed promise the next season when he played in 61 games,

averaging 8.9 points and seven rebounds.

But he really began to blossom last season when he became a

starter and was averaging 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks

in that role. Then he was hurt in a game against Houston, crashing

to the floor with his kneecap visibly contorted.

Oden had just started easing into practices when the latest knee

issue was discovered. He has played in only 82 games during his NBA

career, missing 176.

Jensen said it was unclear what caused the latest damage.

The Blazers announced last month they would not offer Oden a

contract extension. He was the first No. 1 pick since Kwame Brown

not to get one at the end of his rookie contract.

Oden will be a restricted free agent next summer and Portland

will be able to match any offers for him.

Portland’s problems at center are not limited to Oden.

For the past several years the Blazers have relied on veteran

Joel Przybilla, but he also was injured last December and required

knee surgery. The Blazers have since started veteran forward Marcus

Camby in the middle.

At the start of this season, Jeff Pendergraph, who was backing

up Camby, injured his knee and required season-ending surgery. The

Blazers signed six-year veteran Fabricio Oberto, but he retired

from the NBA just five games into the season because of a

preexisting heart condition.

The good news for the Blazers is that Przybilla already has

returned to practice and has said he expects to be back by

Thanksgiving.

About an hour before announcing Oden’s surgery, the Blazers said

All-Star guard Brandon Roy would miss the next two games because of

a sore left knee.

Roy recently underwent an MRI exam and team doctors determined

there is no immediate need for surgery. He will be evaluated again

next week.

The team’s top scorer left the Blazers’ game at New Orleans on

Saturday with a pronounced limp after playing 22 minutes. He had

recently expressed concern about his knees after playing

significant minutes early in the season.

The Blazers host Denver on Thursday and Utah on Saturday.