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Injury concerns about Oden

Likely No. 1 pick's medical reports being scrutinized

Posted: Monday June 18, 2007 2:37PM; Updated: Tuesday June 19, 2007 4:51PM
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Greg Oden's agent, Billy Duffy, downplayed concerns about the 7-footer's wrist injury, characterizing it as typical predraft scrutiny.
Greg Oden's agent, Billy Duffy, downplayed concerns about the 7-footer's wrist injury, characterizing it as typical predraft scrutiny.
AP
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Teams will be taking a close look at the medical evaluations of the top picks leading up to the June 28 draft. They'll especially focus on likely No. 1 choice Greg Oden, Joakim Noah and Al Thornton, who have been flagged with preexisting injuries by NBA doctors.

According to a team executive who has seen medical evaluations of a physical undergone by Oden three weeks ago at the NBA predraft camp in Orlando, the 7-foot center has a couple of worrisome issues. His right wrist has not regained full flexion after being broken last year, and he has a bulging disk in his back.

The team executive noted that "big guys always seem to have bad backs.'' But he did express concern about Oden's wrist. "The people I talked to said it was pretty serious,'' the executive said. "Sometimes the wrist never comes back.''

I've also heard an unrelated rumor -- which did not show up in the Orlando physical -- that another team is expressing concern about the long-term health of Oden's knees.

"We haven't heard anything about his knee,'' said agent Bill Duffy, who represents Oden in association with Mike Conley Sr. "One thing we are aware of is that his hip alignment is off. One of his legs is longer than the other, but he's obviously had that for a long time.''

Oden's wrist is continuing to improve, said Duffy, who writes off the medical concerns as typical predraft scrutiny.

"Every player in the league has something,'' Duffy said. "It's just the nature of our business that nobody is ever 100 percent. A doctor told me that you could scope every NBA player's knees and they'd all be in much worse shape than the knees of regular people who aren't in the league.

"If people are that concerned [about Oden's health] that they don't want to draft him,'' Duffy warned with a laugh, "they'd better have a long-term contract.'' In other words, he doesn't expect these issues to sway Portland GM Kevin Pritchard from picking Oden No. 1.

Two other lottery picks are entering the draft with preexisting conditions. Florida State's Thornton, who may be chosen in the top 10, has a wrist injury that may require surgery this summer, according to the team executive. But Duffy, who also represents Thornton, denies that the injury will require an operation.

"That hasn't been determined,'' Duffy said. "I'm not convinced he's going to need surgery.''

The other injury involves Florida's Noah, who may go as high as No. 3 to Atlanta. Noah enters the draft with a "very slight tear'' of the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, according to his agent, Donald Dell.

"This is not a torn rotator cuff,'' Dell emphasized. "If it was torn, he would have undergone surgery.''

Dell said NBA people have called coach Billy Donovan to ask about Noah's injury.

"Here's the story,'' Dell said. "Noah's shoulder hurt him a couple of times in the NCAA tournament, but he played in the last three games with it. They did an MRI two or three days after the season, which showed a very slight tear. The issue then was, Do we do anything about it? Both of his doctors in Florida and New York said the tear is so small that he should rehab it.''

Noah performed 12 repetitions of a 185-pound bench press at the predraft camp last month, according to Dell.

"Then he stopped,'' Dell said, "because he didn't want to hurt his shoulder.'' (By comparison, Kevin Durant was unable to complete one such rep.)

Extensive rehab has improved Noah's shoulder up to 85-90 percent, said Dell, who predicts that Noah will be back to normal by the end of the month. Noah has worked out for five teams, with Sacramento -- which holds the No. 10 pick -- hoping to see him a second time.

"If it was torn, I wouldn't be sending him all over the place to work out,'' Dell said. "When he's shooting and rebounding, he's fine. The only time it bothers him is when he goes straight up for a high rebound. In that case he can only extend 90 percent. But we think in two weeks he'll be 100 percent.''

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