Will Greg Oden ever play again?

677500.jpg

Will Greg Oden ever play again?

From Comcast SportsNet
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Greg Oden has suffered yet another setback with his troublesome knees. The often-injured 7-foot center was undergoing a minor procedure Monday to clear out debris in his left knee in Vail, Colo., when the surgeon determined there was additional damage and performed microfracture surgery, the Portland Trail Blazers said. The former No.1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft has now had two microfracture surgeries on his left knee, and one on his right. He has also undergone surgery for a fractured left kneecap. The Blazers say Oden will not play this season. "It's hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He's a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him," Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said in a prepared statement. "We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time." Oden, who has not played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009, has appeared in 82 career games for the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. It was expected that he might be able to play this season, but a checkup before the start of training camp in December reportedly revealed concerns about a non-weight-bearing ligament in the left knee, further setting back his rehabilitation. Oden was a restricted free agent heading into this season. The Blazers and Oden initially agreed to an 8.9 million qualifying offer for this year, but when the setback was announced the two sides restructured the deal, which was dropped to 1.5 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent following this season. Oden has turned down several interview requests this season. Shortly after the news about the latest surgery broke, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge posted on Twitter: "Praying for my bro G.O. get better!" The Blazers were in Los Angeles on Monday night for a game against the Lakers. "I'm sure he's saying, Why Me?' Sometimes in life, things like that happen, and you wonder why it's happening to you," coach Nate McMillan said about Oden before the game. "Some of these injuries have occurred, not only on the floor but off the floor. There's really not an explanation for why, or sometimes how they're happening. I'm sure it's been a frustrating start for him." Portland's acting general manager Chad Buchanan told reporters that the team knew there was the possibility of an additional microfracture surgery when he went in for the procedure. The doctor found two defects, he said. Buchanan was asked whether the latest surgery might mean the end of Oden's career. "Greg's 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," Buchanan said. "So there's no reason to think he couldn't come back as long as he shows the work ethic and desire that he's had in the past to come back. I think it's premature to speculate anything beyond that." The former Ohio State star was selected over Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant with the top pick in the 2007 draft. Debates raged over who should be the No. 1 selection, and the Blazers eventually went with Oden in the hope that he would lead the team -- along with Brandon Roy and Aldridge -- to an NBA championship. But Oden's rookie season was postposed when he required microfracture surgery on his right knee that forced him to miss the 2007-08 season. Oden's repeated knee problems have drawn comparisons to Sam Bowie, the injury-plagued big man the Blazers selected ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. While Bowie played in 76 games his rookie season, averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds, he appeared in just 63 games over the next four seasons because of injuries. He missed the entire 1987-88 season. In all, he had five operations.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

1-22_yordano_ventura_andy_marte.jpg
AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).