The New Orleans Pelicans are set to offer a two-year contract to injury-plagued former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, NBC Sports reported Friday.
An NBA source said General Manager Dell Demps has not met with Oden and his agent, Mike Conley Sr., in Las Vegas, where a Pelicans team has been participating in the Summer League, but the team does have interest in Oden. The Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings reportedly have meetings scheduled with Oden.
Messages left for Conley were not returned.
A two-year offer by the Pelicans could put them at the forefront of the pursuit of Oden, who has not played since 2010 — his second NBA season — after surgeries on both knees. Other teams, most notably the NBA champion Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, reportedly have offered one-year contracts, preferring to allow Oden to show he has recovered.
New Orleans reportedly is ready to pitch to Oden, 25, that it will allow him to work his way back with little pressure. The Heat and Spurs, who lost to Miami in the NBA Finals, see him as more of an immediate, although limited, contributor.
The Pelicans, who this summer have signed center Greg Stiemsma and acquired rookie center Jeff Withey in a trade, reportedly are prepared to offer Oden a contract for about $3 million per season. Other teams are interested in securing him for the league minimum — approximately $1 million per season for a player with two years of experience.
Oden was selected No. 1 overall by the Trail Blazers in the 2007 NBA draft after leading Ohio State to the NCAA title game as a freshman. All-NBA small forward Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder was selected second. Durant’s success — and that the Trail Blazers experienced similar injury bad luck with Kentucky center Sam Bowie, whom they picked ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984 — yielded controversy for the team.
Oden, a strong defender and a force in the lane when healthy, missed his rookie year after microfracture surgery on his left knee a month before the season.
He played in 61 games during the 2008-09 season, averaging 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while posting a 56.4 field goal percentage in 21.5 minutes. But he chipped his kneecap in a collision during a game in February and missed the rest of the season.
He averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and shot 60.5 percent in 23.9 minutes over 21 games in his next season, which ended in December after he again injured the knee and underwent surgery for a fractured patella.
He had microfracture surgery in March 2010. The following December, the Blazers announced a setback in his recovery and that he would miss 2011-12. The team negotiated a deal with Oden rather than pay him an $8.9 million qualifier for the right to match a restricted free-agent contract offer.
He had surgery on his right knee in February 2012 and was scheduled for a procedure on the left one. But during the operation, damage to his articular cartilage was found, and he had his third microfracture surgery. He was waived a month later.
He sat out last season rehabilitating, but in January teams began showing interest. For a one-year minimum salary, he is considered a low-risk and potentially high-reward prospect, especially for a team with title aspirations needing low-minutes contributors.