LOS ANGELES -- Greg Oden thought he was done wearing a protective boot on his right leg, finished with using crutches to limp out of arenas and past watching his team play on television while he got treatment. Yet there Oden was, no more than one half into his NBA debut, back on the trainer's table, unable to play and barely able to walk.
"It sucks, but I have to keep on working," he said. "Hopefully, this is just a little setback, but I have no idea when I'm going to be back."
It was an inauspicious opening night for Oden, who missed all of last season after having microfracture surgery on his right knee and also suffered a right ankle sprain earlier this month. The early report on Oden's injury Tuesday was a mid-foot sprain in that same right leg, although judging from Oden's demeanor and the inconclusive X-ray results after the game it could be worse.
As he sat atop the trainer's table in the cramped visiting quarters of the Staples Center, Oden looked helplessly at his right foot as he shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. It's about the same reaction most fans had at the news of Oden getting hurt.
Oden has gone from simply being "injury-prone" to being compared to Sam Bowie, whose career in Portland was cut short due to injuries after being the second overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft ahead of Michael Jordan. Bowie, however, played in 76 games and averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds before injuries limited him to only 63 games over the next four seasons, including only five during the 1986-87 season and missing the entire 1987-88 season. Already in his second season, Oden has yet to play more than 13 minutes or score his first point.
It may be early to label Oden a bust -- he should probably be given an opportunity to at least play a complete game before being lumped into that category -- but it would be foolish at this point to think that Oden will be the player he was hyped to be coming out of college.
He hasn't played a complete season since he was in high school after he had surgery on his right wrist to repair a ligament injury late in his senior season, and he missed the beginning of his only season at Ohio State. He has made more news since the NBA draft for MRI results than anything he's done on the court and there is little proof that this will change. Much was made before the draft that Oden's right leg is slightly longer than his left (notice all his injuries are on his right side) and that he had alignment problems. That's never going to change and, sadly, in all likelihood neither will Oden's propensity for getting injured.