Ed O’Bannon wanted to talk about UCLA’s national championship, his career with the Bruins and an outstanding senior year.
But instead, in the weeks leading up to the NBA draft, everyone kept asking about “the knee.”
“I remember going to an NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago,” said O’Bannon, who was selected Wednesday by the New Jersey Nets with the ninth pick overall in the draft. “There must have been two or three doctors from each team and all they wanted to do was poke and pull at my (left) knee.”
O’Bannon tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee playing in a pickup game at UCLA on Oct. 9, 1990, and had to undergo reconstructive surgery. He missed his first year and the first 10 games of his second because of the injury, but hasn’t missed a game since.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” O’Bannon said Thursday during a news conference at the Nets offices. “The knee feels good, my legs are strong. I just wear a sleeve on the leg. I don’t even ice it.”
But apparently there was enough skepticism among NBA teams that O’Bannon fell in the draft and was still on the board when the Nets picked.
“I think we were extremely lucky to get a player of his quality,” coach Butch Beard said. “His record speaks for itself. He’s come a long way and still has a way to grow as a New Jersey Net.”
O’Bannon averaged 20.4 points in his senior season, hitting 53 percent from the field. He had 1,815 points and 820 rebounds in his career.
Beard said the addition of O’Bannon gives the Nets quality players at three positions, with O’Bannon and Derrick Coleman at the forwards and Kenny Anderson at point guard.
Anderson, who attended the press conference, felt O’Bannon was a perfect fit for the Nets.
“I’m psyched,” he said. “I’ve felt all along he was the best player for us in our situation. He’s big, active, exciting and can run the court. I’m looking forward to playing with him. I feel he’s going to make me a better player.”
It remains to be seen how O’Bannon will fit in and how his knee will hold up under the pounding on an 82-game NBA schedule.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about this team but I don’t really know what to expect. I’m anxious to experience it for myself,” O’Bannon said.