Oden & Mavs: Trick Of The 'One-Day Contract'
It's surfaced that the Dallas Mavericks are taking a look at former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who last played in the NBA in 2009.
It's a "sexy'' notion and a "name'' player and therefore a headline-grabber when agent Mike Conley Jr. makes his calls to teams (and to reporters) touting the idea of a comeback. but Oden comes with an extensive history of injuries and -- despite the "sexiness'' and the "name value'' of it, remains a risky addition.
It also only happens in the unlikely event that Oden succumbs to Dallas' most favorable offer, using the trick of the "One-Day Contract.''
First, the medical background that makes the concept so iffy:
Taken one spot before Kevin Durant, Oden played just 82 games for Portland in five seasons as multiple injuries kept him off the court. The issues started when he missed his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. His return the following year was brief as he suffered a right midfoot sprain in his debut and missed the next six games. He would bounce back from the injury to play 45 consecutive games, the longest healthy stretch of his career. That streak would end with a bone chip in his left that would cost him 14 games.
He would enter the 2009-2010 healthy but on December 5, 2009 he would go down with a fracture left knee cap. The game serves as the last game in which he has played. Oden would once again miss an entire season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in November of 2010. Rehabbing to play during the lockout shortened season, Oden would suffer a setback. An arthroscopic debridement on his right knee was performed in February and a similar procedure was scheduled for his left knee just a little over two weeks later. However during the second surgery it was determined that Oden would need a second microfracture procedure on his left knee. The Blazers would waive him during the season making Oden a free agent.
Mircofracture surgery is becoming more common in the NBA with players like Amar'e Stoudemire and former Maverick Jason Kidd undergoing the procedure during various points of their career. The surgery is performed when damage has been sustained to a type of cartilage known as articular or hyaline cartilage. Articular cartilage is smooth and covers the weight bearing aspect of certain bones like the femur, tibia, and fibula in the knee. The makeup of the cartilage allows it be virtually frictionless and at the same time able to withstand high loads of force. If a defect develops in the cartilage, the knee may result in pain, swelling, and a catching sensation because the joint can longer move as smoothly.
In microfracture surgery the damaged cartilage is cleaned and prepped before tiny fractures are made in the bone. The body's natural defense system responds to the breaks and naturally creates marrow-filled blood clots to repair the damaged cartilage. As time passes, the microfractures are repaired and replaced with new cartilage. The replacement cartilage is not quite as durable as the original cartilage but is effective enough to allow an athlete to return to activity.
Kidd and Stoudemire have both played at high levels since undergoing the surgery though Stoudemire continues to have issues in his repaired knee eight years later. However Oden isn't just recovering from one surgery, he's attempting to comeback from an unprecedented three microfracture procedures. This is where the Mavs could have a nice ace up their sleeve with their elite medical staff led by athletic trainer Casey Smith.
Smith joined Dallas prior to the 2004-2005 season after spending four years as the assistant athletic trainer and head strength and conditioning coach for the Phoenix Suns, a medical staff consider to be the best in the NBA. He's served as the head athletic trainer for USA basketball, caring for two gold medal squads. We've previously noted Smith's multiple certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and his understanding of biomechanics. Such a skill could help determine if an adjustment to a preexisting muscular imbalance would help Oden minimize the stress placed on and through the knee. Furthermore the Mavs staff is constantly ahead of the curve being one of the first to use advanced treatments such as cryotherapy that could help Oden recover and stay healthy should he choose to join the Mavericks.
Having said all that, the risk with Oden remains high. The cartilage in his knees (or lack thereof) remains the biggest issue and there is no ignoring he hasn't played competitively in over four years. However given Dallas' need for a low-post presence and with a well-respected medical staff in house, the Mavericks have positioned themselves to be one of those teams best suited to take that risk.
How will the Mavs minimize that financial risk?
Oden isn't trying to play this year; he's just trying to get paid this year, so he can rehab somebody else's nickel with the promise that IF he's ever a player again, he's YOUR player. An educated guess is that he'll fish for somebody's MLE-level money.
The Mavs' sensible offer: A three-year deal, starting with the minimum salary, that kicks in the final week of this season. Or, heck, the final day. That completes Year 1 of the team's commitment to the player. Then comes Year 2 of the three-year contract -- also at the minimum, in anticipation that Oden is still not a legit force on the court.
In Year 3 he makes the vet's minimum, one more time. And with the completion of his third year, the Mavs have his Bird Rights ... and now Greg Oden can be paid like the standout he would like to be able to project himself to be.
If somebody wants to pay Oden substantially more than that to be an expensive car in the garage that may never run, they can have at it. The Mavs are not in a financial position to do that ... and maybe Oden can be convinced that given his health, Dallas is positioned to help.
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