Oden hopes to return this season

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Greg Oden hasn't given up on returning this season, the injured Trail Blazers center told SI.com Thursday.

"I just want to get back,'' said Oden in his first public comments since he suffered a fractured left kneecap Dec. 5, resulting in recent surgery. "They say I'm out for the whole year, but my plan is to work really hard and you never know. Hopefully I don't have to [be sidelined all season]. I'm hoping things are way ahead of schedule and I can come back at the end of the year.''

While Oden is trying to return to the court as quickly as possible, agents BillDuffy and Mike Conley are promising to oversee a thorough investigation to understand why the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft has suffered two major knee injuries in three NBA seasons. Oden missed his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. Last year he sat out 14 games after suffering a bone chip in his left knee.

"Mike and I are going to do a thorough analysis of every aspect of Greg's physiology,'' Duffy told SI.com Thursday. "That means there will be no stone unturned in terms of really understanding his body -- the balance of his body, the symmetry of his body, the strength of his bones. Every aspect as relates to nutrition, DNA, muscle mass, everything we can study, we're going to dig into at this point.''

Duffy said he and Conley will seek out the best medical and training advice "around the world.''

"He's working hard and doing everything that he's asked,'' said Duffy of Oden. "But we're going to take it to the next level.''

Oden, who was averaging 11.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 23.9 minutes this season, said he was in favor of a full physical review. "It's something I'm aware of,'' he said. "We have some really good people here with nutrition and other [forms of support] in Portland. But it never hurts to look at another way of looking at things.''

Oden has been uplifted by the support of fellow players as well as the Portland fans who stood and chanted his name while he was being treated on the court after suffering his latest injury. "I got a lot of people hitting me up and just saying, 'Get well, big fella, it happens to the best of us,''' said Oden. "It was nothing that anybody could foresee coming along. It was a freak accident so you have to keep your head up. It's one of those things I can't really control.

"I was hoping more than anything that I was going to have an injury-free season. I was starting to play well. But it happens.''

Oden emphasized that his injuries haven't deterred his hopes of fulfilling his potential as a player. For perspective he sees Blazers owner Paul Allen and assistant coach Maurice Lucas -- both dealing with cancer -- and he said their fight gives him strength. Coach Nate McMillan has also been dealing with a recently ruptured Achilles tendon.

"I'm not really thinking about it,'' said Oden of his long-term future. "My head has definitely been positive. Everything going on with me has been positive, and being around my teammates has helped me a lot. Knowing that a couple of my coaches and Mr. Allen are going through something a lot worse than what I'm going through definitely helps me get in check.''

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