Nearly six years after he was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, unrestricted free agent center Greg Oden continues to attempt a comeback from a series of knee injuries that led to his release by the Blazers in 2012.
Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas told The Oregonian at this week's Chicago pre-draft combine that Oden is making progress in his return to the court.
"Man, he looks unbelievable," Thomas said. "He's running, he's lifting weights. You might be seeing a comeback. He looks like he is ready to go. He's running, getting in shape. I'll tell you one thing: For a big 7-footer, that's all he does -- running and getting in shape. He's looking right."
It's been a few months since we've heard from Oden, whose name popped up back in February, when he met with the Celtics and a report suggested the Cavaliers were preparing to make him a multi-year contract offer.
Oden has drawn interest this season 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 this season that there is mutual interest. The Associated Press reported recently that Oden said that his goal is to be ready for the start of the 2013-14 season.
Oden, 25, 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.
This assessment from Thomas -- while seemingly very good news -- doesn't indicate whether Oden has returned to basketball activities to any degree. Oden last stepped foot on an NBA court in December 2009 and he never reached the point during his multiple rehabilitations with the Blazers where he was cleared for five-on-five, full-contact play, as significant swelling and pain prevented him from advancing in his rehabilitation work. He also developed blood clots in his left ankle that were considered serious enough to delay his February 2012 surgery.
Given that it's now been 1,260 days since he last played in the NBA, a contract signing -- even a one-year minimum deal with a team that could oversee his rehabilitation -- would be an incredible achievement. That doesn't sound like much for a former No. 1 pick, but few players have traveled such a rocky road from an injury standpoint.