Greg Oden is an unrestricted free agent without a team in sight.
That sounds a little weird to say, considering Oden starred at Ohio State during the 2006-07 season, leading the Buckeyes to the NCAA championship game as a freshman and becoming the No. 1 overall pick (by Portland) in the NBA draft that followed.
But that was five years ago, and two knee surgeries and a few assorted injuries later, the 7-foot-0 center has drawn little interest in the market. In fact, he admitted the interest hasn’t been there at all.
“It’s not like teams are out there telling people they want me, because they’re not right now,” Oden told the Terre Haute (Ind.) Tribune-Star.
Oden has played in just 82 total games in his NBA career. He missed all of last season. He’s likely to miss all of the next. His knees are just that bad. It’s as if they’re made of scrambled eggs.
His last game took place on Dec. 5, 2009, nearly three years ago against Houston. Interestingly, it came one game after he grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds. Still, his season ended after just 21 games and averages of 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
At the end of this past season, the Trail Blazers declined to pick up the option on Oden’s contract, making him the first overall selection not to receive an extension since Kwame Brown.
Making matters worse for the Blazers is the fact they went back and forth on whom to draft in ’07 — Oden, or forward Kevin Durant. As you know, Durant has been a George Gervin-like scoring machine, having led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the most recent Finals.
Meanwhile, Oden confessed he once struggled with alcohol and conceded his NBA days may be over. He said as much to his agent, Mike Conley Sr., the father of Memphis point guard Mike Conley Jr., who played alongside Oden at Ohio State.
“I would love to play [in 2012-13], but I’m not going to rush anything,” Oden told the Tribune-Star. “I need to take a year off. What I told was ‘Look, I want to get back with a team. I want to play. If there’s a chance that later on in the year, if I feel good or if I’m healthy enough to play, I would love to play this year.'”
Today, Oden is back at Ohio State, pursuing a degree in sports and leisure. It’s where he plans to remain unless the phone starts ringing with calls from the NBA.
Those may or may not come, but one general manager told FOX Sports Ohio that, eventually, someone somewhere will take a stab at the big man. The GM listed teams with an abundance of salary cap room, such as Atlanta, Cleveland or Phoenix, as potential Oden suitors toward or at the end of the season. But, the GM stressed, even that’s a bit of a reach.
“Who knows, maybe he has something left,” the GM said. “There was obviously something there to begin with. I would think that would be worth a minimum (contract). Then again, he’s suffered so many (injuries), you have to be in a position to take on a major risk. Not many teams want to put themselves in that position.”
Oden is certainly open to trying it again. And he’s under no illusions that he’ll have a say in where he ends up, a la LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
“I’m not out there telling people I want to go to a certain team,” he told the Tribune-Star. “I want to go to a place where I can get healthy and with somebody who can believe in me and my skills — somewhere it could be a good fit for the both of us.”
But if the feeling isn’t mutual, well, Oden said he’s prepared for that, too.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “I’ve got to move on with my life. I know I want to play basketball. If I physically can’t play, then I’ve got to move on.
“I’ve still got to wake up tomorrow. I’ve still got to live. One day, I’m going to want a family and I’ve got to provide for them. So if basketball doesn’t work out, you gotta keep it moving.”