By Ben Golliver
Will Greg Oden finally begin the long-awaited second chapter of his NBA career?
The Akron Beacon Journal reports the Cavaliers could soon make a multi-year contract offer to Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft who has been sidelined with knee injuries since Dec. 2009.
The Cavs are expected to offer free agent center Greg Oden a two-year contract with a team option for a third year after the Feb. 21 trade deadline passes, a league source said. The contract would begin immediately. The Cavs have about $4 million in cap space, which they are preserving now for potential trades. Teams around the league don't want to sign Oden until after the trade deadline.
Oden is living nearby in Columbus. His agent, Mike Conley Sr., said last week Oden has been to see the Cavs a couple of times already, but was evasive when pressed as to what capacity.
“Greg has been up there (to Cleveland) before and he’ll probably be up there again in an official capacity,” Conley said Friday.
Oden, 25, is an unrestricted free agent after he was released by the Blazers last year. He is currently rehabilitating from multiple knee surgeries in February 2012, including a second microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Prior to that round of surgeries, Oden also had left knee surgery in 2009 after fracturing his patella, microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 to address a “defect” that occurred during non-contact rehabilitation work, and a microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007. Oden also reportedly underwent Orthokine injections on both knees back in May 2012.
Despite a seemingly endless cycle of surgeries and rehabilitations, Oden has drawn interest in recent weeks from a number of teams, including the Spurs, Hornets, Bobcats, Pacers and Mavericks, according to ESPN.com. The Heat have been linked to interest in Oden for years and Oden’s agent, Mike Conley Sr., told Fox Sports Florida recently that there is mutual interest. The Associated Press reported recently that Oden said that his goal is to be ready for the 2013-14 season.
Why would Cleveland entertain a multi-year offer for a player who hasn't stepped foot on an NBA court in more than three years? Good question. Positionally, there is a need. Big man Anderson Varejao has been struck by injuries in recent years and the only other center on the roster is rookie Tyler Zeller. The Cavaliers are armed with cap space and are clearly in a rebuilding mode; taking a flier on a big man with potential, even if he's a long shot, is a nothing-to-lose proposition. Signing him soon would allow the Cavaliers to guide his rehabilitation and prepare him for next season; a team option for the third year would give them flexibility to cut bait if it didn't work out or retain their asset if it did. All it really costs Cleveland is a roster spot.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of an Oden comeback: he was never consistently healthy during his four-plus seasons in Portland, microfracture surgeries are major surgeries, and he developed blood clots in his left ankle that were considered serious enough to delay his February 2012 surgery. Most damning, Blazers executives admitted following his latest surgeries that Oden was never cleared for full-contact, five-on-five play at any point following his 2009 fractured patella and that significant swelling and pain prevented him from advancing in his rehabilitation work. It's admirable that he's still pursuing a comeback after years of setbacks but any optimism regarding his future contributions needs to be couched in between thick layers of caution. Oden holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 82 appearances.