Shandel Richardson of the South-Florida Sun-Sentinel reports some thoughts from Miami Heat center Greg Oden's high school coach and teammate. Both men remained close with the former Trail Blazers during the five years between when he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and when he was released in 2012.
Oden previously acknowledged problems with alcoholism and unhappiness as he spent years rehabilitating from a series of knee injuries.
Jack Keefer, who coached Oden at Lawrence North High School, has remained close to most of his players during his nearly 40-year tenure. ... With the sounds of squeaky shoes in the background, Keefer tells a story of receiving a phone call from a friend of Oden's in Portland a few years back. The friend felt Keefer was the only person who could talk Oden into leaving the house instead of staying in the bedroom feeling sorry for himself.
"I told him, 'You have brains, you can go out and get a job any day,' " Keefer said. "You can go back and get your degree any day. You can do anything you want. If you play, you play. If you don't play, you're fine. You've got enough money to live very comfortable with."
"He's so conscientious that he felt bad for four or five years because he was letting down Portland," Keefer said. "They paid all that money for him so he felt bad. And then at some point, you just get tired of seeing Durant just kick a--."
The stranded Oden found his "Wilson" in the form of alcohol. Every night was like a Friday. [Former high school teammate Brandon] McDonald said it was Oden's way of giving up on basketball.
"I think he kind of just figured out it wasn't going to work out in Portland," McDonald said. "That's when it kind of started. We were going out for no reason. We'd go to a bar on a Tuesday, just randomly. It was just to waste the time."
Oden underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February 2012. In May 2012, he underwent Orthokine treatment on both of his knees. Previously, Oden underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007, underwent surgery after suffering a fractured patella in his left knee in 2009, and underwent microfracture surgery in his left knee in 2010. He signed with the Heat in August.
Oden, 25, holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 82 appearances. He hasn't played in an NBA game since December 5, 2009.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter