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.
I can't help but think of several big men whose careers were derailed by injury. Bill Walton, Raef LaFrentz, and Theo Ratliff come readily to mind. Once back problems surface, they seem to plague the players for the rest of their careers. Once Bird's back went out, his career was pretty much over. Once they started having problems, Walton, Raef and Theo were never the same, rarely playing a full year.
Another player with a preexisting condition is Joakim Noah who enters the draft with a very slight tear of the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
"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.
Since the Celtics are considering taking him with the 5th pick, this is of interest. But it seems that it isn't anything we need to worry about as it hasn't affected his workouts or his play.
Another player that is being considered by the Celtics, Al Thornton 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. This would have to be a consideration if we take him with the 5th pick.