by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

For a man who has suffered so many depressing professional setbacks, Greg Oden has never lacked for confidence. He approaches his basketball career with a glass half-full outlook no matter how many times he’s knocked down.

This is going to be an especially critical season for Oden; aside from needing to prove his many doubters wrong, Greg’s contract situation looms above everything (he’s eligible for an extension, but the Portland Trailblazers are understandably taking their sweet time before committing to him financially in a major way.)

Oden tells Yahoo! that he will overcome the injuries, and contribute enough on the court to earn that big payday:

“I’m not worried about people believing in me. I believe in myself,” he said. “If you’re going to doubt me, doubt me. But I know what I can do, and I know I’m going to improve, and I know that I can bring a lot to this team.”

Oden won’t give a specific timetable for when he thinks he’ll return, but Blazers coach Nate McMillan is optimistic it will be before the end of December. “I do a little bit more each day,” Oden said. “I keep on pushing it. But I’m not going to put myself out there until I can go and do the things I need to do.” Said [Brandon] Roy: “He’s closer than I think people think.”

He’s eligible for an extension, but it’s clear the Blazers want to use the full season to better assess his health before deciding to commit frontline money to him. Oden will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, which will still allow the Blazers to match any offer he receives.“I’m really just trying to concentrate on getting my knee back,” Oden said. “I would love for it to happen, but I got to prove it. I got to earn it.”

It’s make or break time for the big fella.

Blazers fans have to be encouraged by his positive attitude; it would be nice if on-court results began to reflect it.