After sitting out what would have been his rookie season recovering from knee surgery, Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden says he's ready to finally make his NBA debut.
The 7-footer from Ohio State arrived in Portland last year as the No. — draft pick and a huge fan favorite before ever stepping on the court.
Blazers fans then welcomed Oden as the savior of a team that went 32-50 just one season ago, and they were stunned to learn he needed microfracture surgery on his right knee to stimulate cartilage growth by drilling tiny holes in the bone.
But Oden showed no signs of problems at a workout Tuesday, repeatedly dunking during a little two-on-two with teammates Steve Blake and Channing Frye, along with former Arkansas star Steven Hill, a 7-footer who's been invited to practice with Portland.
"I'm feeling good," Oden told the media crowd who gathered to see him in action for the first time since the surgery.
"I do not have any pain or soreness in my knee," he said.
In fact, Oden said the right knee felt stronger than his left knee because of all the rehabilitation work and conditioning.
Now he says the challenge is mostly psychological, to stop worrying about the knee and to fulfill high expectations he knows fans have for the him and the team.
And he is the first to admit he must start from scratch with his interrupted career.
"I'm still a rookie," Oden said. "I know I've got to keep that in mind and try not to let all the pressure overwhelm me."
Frye was supportive but mindful of Oden's own admission that he still lacks experience.
"For me, I don't know if this is the right thing to say, but he's yet to play in an NBA practice, he's yet to play in an NBA game, so I think the expectations are more on him personally than it is on everybody else," Frye said.
"We know how good he can be, but he is still a rookie."
Although they both spent some time trying to make sure expectations were realistic, Oden sounded confident, and Frye agreed.
"Oh yeah, heck yeah," Frye said when asked whether Oden was already showing improvement. "He's got a great attitude."
Asked whether he noticed Oden favoring his right knee, Frye dismissed it entirely.
"He favors dunking on your head, that's what he favors," Frye said, after giving up his share to Oden at the workout.
But Frye also had plenty of praise for Blake and other teammates, including All-Star Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who was named to the squad that prepared the U.S. men's national team for the Olympics.
"I think a lot of people forgot how good we could have been last year," Frye said.
"A lot of people say this is Greg's team. I think we're a great team and Greg is just a great addition. He's going to open the floor up a lot for us."
Oden upbeat about starting career