There is no more important item of business on the plate of the Trail Blazers than the status and health of Greg Oden.
Portland can extend an $8.8 million qualifying offer the day after the NBA Finals to the 7-foot center, who is rehabbing from November microfracture knee surgery. Or the Blazers can give Oden, 23, a multi-year extension. Or they can let him become a restricted free agent, then match another team's offer.
General manager Rich Cho has indicated the Blazers are likely to do what they can to retain Oden, who because of knee injuries has played in only 82 regular-season games in his four years under contract with the club.
Coach Nate McMillan, who knows his team needs interior help, said a healthy Oden is the guy.
"We need another physical presence out on the floor," McMillan said. Last season, "we were more of a finesse team, long but not physical. We need beef down there, someone to establish the post. What we're looking for, we have in Greg. We just haven't had the opportunity to get him out on the floor."
Oden said before Portland was eliminated by Dallas in the playoffs that his goal is to be fully ready for September training camp. He said his rehab is on schedule.
"He is following the doctors' orders," McMillan said. "They're not allowing him to do anything on the floor. He won't be allowed to run until late in the summer. He's working on his diet and doing what he can as far as strength and conditioning. We cross our fingers and pray that he'll be able to get through the year."
With all the injuries, Portland could have cashed in the regular season. Instead, LaMarcus Aldridge took up the slack in Bradon Roy's absence as the team leader, Wesley Matthews stepped in with a strong first season in a Blazers uniform, and the midseason acquisition of Gerald Wallace had a big payoff down the stretch. The Blazers were rewarded by the fans selling out every game at the Rose Garden. Coach Nate McMillan was rewarded with a two-year contract extension.
Near the midpoint of the regular season, the Blazers were 20-20, and with three-time All-Star Brandon Roy on the shelf, the playoffs were in question. They gathered themselves and won five games in a row, the catalyst to a strong finish that saw them go 28-14 the rest of the way and climb into the sixth spot in the Western Conference.
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