Monday morning, the Portland Trail Blazers announced that center Greg Oden was set to undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. Monday afternoon, the Blazers announced that doctors opted instead to perform a microfracture surgery on Oden's left knee. The injury officially ends Oden's 2011-2012 season and the typical recovery time from a microfracture surgery of this nature is roughly one year.
Oden previously underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in Nov. 2010. He also fractured his left patella and underwent surgery following that injury in Dec. 2010.
Later Monday afternoon, Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan met with a small group of reporters at the team' s Practice Facility to answer questions about the surgery. Here's a transcript of his group comments. Additional comments were made in a one-on-one interview afterwards. That transcript will go up later Monday night.
What happened today? Why the microfracture instead of the arthroscopic procedure?
We knew going in that this was a possibility. We were hopeful that it wouldn't come to this. Going back to December, when he had his MRI, and the lockout had just finished, we knew down the road that there was a chance that it could go to this. We were hopeful that it wouldn't and we proceeded with his rehab accordingly. He had some swelling in recent weeks. The doctors wanted to go in there and take a look at both knees. We went in to the right knee about 2 weeks ago, addressed some of the debris in there and then went in today to hopefully do the same procedure and they found two defects, lesions, that they wanted to address with the microfracture procedure so we were informed of that this afternoon. We did know going in this afternoon that there was a chance that this could come to that.
What's your reaction?
We were disappointed for Greg. We don't look at it for us, we're disappointed for Greg, for what he's had to go through. This is his third microfracture procedure, his fractured patella, you don't wish that on anybody, especially a young guy with so much promise. It's disappointing for him to have to go through another hurdle like this. It's more about Greg and trying to help him deal with another challenge.
What has Greg Oden said to you about this news?
I spoke to him right as he came out of surgery today. He knew going in that there was a chance that it would come to this. We had hoped that it wouldn't. He's obviously disappointed but he's been through it before. He's still very young. He's shown that he can come back from it in the past. His other microfracture procedures have healed fine and hopefully he can do it again.
So he's out until March 2013?
We don't know an exact timeline at this point. Your typical microfracture can take up to a year, sometimes a little longer. Doctors aren't giving us a real prognosis at this point. Greg will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Us along with 29 other teams will evaluate the information at that point and have to make a decision.
What's your obligation to him going forward?
He's under contract until the end of the season. From that point, when you're an unrestricted free agent, you're free to talk to any teams you want at that point, negotiate with any teams. We fall into the same boat as every other team in the league at that point with an unrestricted free agent. We'll continue until his contract runs up to support him and be there to help him.
Is this career-ending?
The doctors haven't talked about that. Greg is still very young in relative terms for a professional basketball player. He's recovered from a couple of these before. His last two microfracture lesions have healed fine. There's no reason to think that he couldn't come back as long as he shows the work ethic and desire that he has in the past to come back from that. I think that's premature to speculate anything past that.
Greg still has desire?
That's tough for me to say. Greg has shown a lot of perseverance to get where he's at now. This is obviously another big hurdle for him. He's shown to be able to work through some of these injuries before. He's got it in him before if he wants to do it.
This is the "setback" you guys were talking about in December?
The results of the MRI at that point, we thought down the road that there could be a chance of it coming to this. We were hopeful that it wouldn't. We had some progress, some ups and down between December and now. Like I said, ultimately he had swelling in recent weeks in both of his knees and doctors wanted to go in and take a closer look. We knew going it could come to this and it has come to it. We were hopeful as was Greg and his agent and all of us that it wouldn't come to this but that's where it's at.
His contract situation. You have Bird rights?
He's unrestricted. If we chose to retain we could offer him more than another team could but at the end of the day everyone has to assess all the information with him and decide what's appropriate for him.
What's it been like for him?
It's been tough for him. Being around but not always being on the court. It's hard on anybody, any player. That's what Greg loves to do. To have that taken away from him has been very difficult for him. Our guys, he gets along with all of our players, all of our coaches. To go through what he's gone through is tough to keep an upbeat attitude all the time, as it would be for any of us. I admire him for handling everything as he has. To be that young and have that much pressure on you and go through all the challenges he's faced medically, I can't imagine putting myself in his shoes and I think he's handled it very well considering the circumstances.
Longshot that he is a Blazer again?
That's a tough question to answer. Come this summer, when you have a little more information, a little more time to see where Greg is at. All 29 other teams are going to be doing the same thing we are. Evaluating when can he get back on the floor, how productive can he be? You've got to answer those questions. It's still too early on that one.
Change approach to trade deadline?
I don't think so. We knew all along there was a chance that it could come to this. When we resigned Greg to his one-year deal, he's worth the risk. When he's been out there healthy on the floor, he's proven to be a dominant force. However low those chances might have been to get out there, we felt it was worth the risk. Greg wanted to be here this year. It made sense to have him here. So that's how we ended up to coming where we were at when the lockout ended.
What's owner Paul Allen's take?
We were all prepared that it might come to this. We're all disappointed and feel bad for Greg. At the end of the day, he's a human being. What he's had to go through is really unfair for a guy as much promise as he has, for a guy who just wants to play basketball to have to face these challenges. I think Paul, Larry, Nate, all of his teammates, we all just feel terrible for him that he's had to go through what he's had to go through and now he's got another challenge in front of him.
How close has he gotten back to the court?
That's a tough one. He's gone through various drills at practice, nothing live. He's gone a little bit of changing ends of the floor, a little light jumping, a lot of shooting. He's had some ups and downs from when he first came back from the lockout. He's had good days and bad days, it's tough to say how close he was to coming back. He still had some progress to make but there were days you felt like we might see him out on the floor this year. There were other days that you might have been more discouraged and I think Greg would tell you the exact same thing. It's tough to quantify exactly how close he was to getting back.
Did he make more or less progress than prior to Nov. 2010 microfracture?
I would say it was pretty comparable. On this one he had a little more swelling that he was dealing with some increased activity. Before, he had more pain, I think. It was a little different circumstance for him. There were days when you watched him out here and it was encouraging and there were other days where you could tell that it was bothering him. That's part of coming back from that procedure and when you've come back from a couple of those you're going to experience more of those ups and downs that he was experiencing this year.
Do you think about 'What could have been' with Brandon and Greg?
You can think about that but it doesn't do you any good. We've got to move forward with our team. We've got a lot of good pieces on our team to build around. It doesn't do you any good to look back on that because nobody in this league is feeling sorry for us and we're not going to feel sorry for our situation. Those are two great guys that we lost, but we've got to move forward and make the best of this team and this organization moving forward.
Was this surgery necessary because of something he did or didn't do in rehab?
I don't think it was anything to do with that. It was just a combination of maybe not being completely healed. I don't think the doctors could tell you if there was one incident that caused these particular lesions to occur. I think that's something that's too hard to determine. If there's a particular instance or a particular day or a particular workout to pinpoint that. That's a tough one to answer.
This surgery different left knee microfracture last time?
No. Both lesions in his articular cartilage. One was done on his trochlear, which is behind his kneecap, and the other was done on his medial-chondral, which is fairly close to where he had his last microfracture done but it's not the same spot. We don't feel like it was any relation to the previous microfracture or the lesions he had before.
Before he underwent this surgery, was there a likelihood that you would have made him an offer this summer?
We wanted to evaluate, see how this season went for him, see where he was at health-wise. We had the chance to watch him every so often out here on the practice court. He's obviously gone through a lot of rehab with our training staff and our strength staff and other people that we've brought in to help look at Greg and try to help him. You've got to kind of wait out and take as much information as you can to make that decision, and that's what we planned on doing.
Would you consider releasing him for the roster spot?
We'll have to look further into that. Today we're trying to get through helping Greg get through a difficult day. We'll look at our roster as we come up to the trade deadline. Obviously there will be a lot of conversation and we're always looking to make our team better. If there's a way to do that then we'll consider all avenues. It hasn't crept into our thoughts today.
Can you apply for a Disabled Player Exception?
We could. That's one of the options that we'll look at. Today, we're just worried about helping Greg get through today.
[Update: a league source says the deadline for acquiring a DPE was Jan. 15 so this is not one of the options on the table.]
Other options available?
I'd prefer not to go into them today. There are always options out there.
Left ankle blood clots and his right knee?
His first procedure on his right knee has healed up well. The doctors feel good about it. Greg says it feels good. He's going through the rehab process of getting that thing stronger.
We waited so long to do the procedure today because the doctors were trying to ge the blood clots progressed and improved and precautionary things you have to do before you do a procedure on something that close to the blood clot. That didn't factor in at all to the thing with his knee but it did factor into the timing of this procedure, otherwise this would have been done awhile back, right around when we did the right knee.
Intent of surgery was to clean knee up or to explore more or?
I think the doctors with the swelling, they wanted to go in there to see if there was some debris that they needed to clean up like they had in the right knee. They had hoped that's what it was going to be. There was always the possibility that it could be more, that they might find a defect in there. Unfortunately that's what they found, they found two of them in there today. The doctors told us that that was the right choice, the best choice, really the only choice to go forward with the microfracture.
Could you have known that without going in?
Not really. That's more of a question for our training staff. The doctors felt like they needed to get in there and take a closer look with both knees.
Can Oden see your doctors and trainers after his contract expires?
Technically not for an unrestricted free agent. Those guys, that's a good question. Can he come in here and rehab? I would hate to tell you the wrong answer. That's something down the road that we have to think about. We do have unrestricted free agents that come in here and play with our guys. I'll have to look into that.
You thought it was arthroscopic today. What was his status going to be going forward this season if that's what it had been?
There was still probably a longshot that he would play. Because of the blood clot, he was likely going to have to go through anti-coagulatory medicine. That might have ended his season as well. There's always a glimmer of home that you get through there today, just being a scope, and the doctors feel like he's 6-8 weeks away, and maybe you get him back on the court. But I think it was a longshot all along, going into today. But we weren't going to shut the door completely.
Related to patella fracture?
Doctors don't think so. No.
Is it possible, best case scenario, that he's able to get medical clearance at some point in the future after these surgeries?
Anybody's guess. That would have to be more of a question for Dr. Steadman, who performed the procedure. He's world-renowned and he felt like that that was the best route to ensure Greg's opportunity to play down the road again.
You can't say he can get medical clearance at some point in the future?
I couldn't give you that answer today. The doctors wouldn't... I would have to have a further in-depth conversation with the doctors. Today was about getting through today with Greg.
You can see how people are going to run with that and say he's done?
You can speculate all you want but it's too early at this point to say. He's bounced back from microfracture procedures before, those lesions have healed fine. He's developed two new ones, they've addressed those today. If Greg Oden wants to come back and play basketball again, he's proven that he can come back from that same procedure before. This is another setback in that comeback. I think the doctors would tell you as long as he wants to do it, it's in the cards.
How long will he remain in Vail, CO?
He'll be there for probably another week to 10 days then they'll bring him back to Portland. He has to go through some post-op procedures with the doctors, getting him started on the rehab. He's still working through his right knee recovery as well. I anticipate him being in Vail for another week or so.
Will he be around the team or doing his own thing?
We've been very accommodating to Greg. Wanting him to be doing what he felt most comfortable doing. It's hard being on the team but not being on the court with your teammates. We wanted to make sure he felt he was in the right place with his recovery, whether it was coming in to do his own work, being around the team, being on the court, passing or rebounding or doing some drill work with the team. We'll continue to do the same. We want to be understanding with him.
Are you going to keep him away from the media like you have been?
I wouldn't know the answer to that. (Laughs)
Will he have a chance to talk to his fans in Portland or are we never going to hear from him again?
I wouldn't be able to tell you that. I would have to leave that up to Greg and our media people, what Greg wants to do and what he's comfortable doing.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter