Chuma Okeke

Injury Notes: Ingram, Vucevic, LeBron, Magic

An MRI has revealed that Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram suffered a left low-ankle sprain during the team’s 108-103 victory over the Warriors on Tuesday, the team has announced via Twitter. Ingram is set to miss Friday night’s contest against the Sixers and is considered day-to-day with the injury beyond that.

Losing Ingram, the club’s second-leading scorer behind All-Star forward Zion Williamson, could be a major blow for New Orleans as the team strives to qualify for the play-in tournament in a crowded Western Conference field. With a 30-36 record, the Pelicans currently sit just two games behind the Spurs for a shot at the play-in tournament in the West this season.

There’s more injury news from around the league:

  • Bulls All-Star center Nikola Vučević (adductor) was able to fully participate in a team practice today, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Head coach Billy Donovan commented that the sharp-shooting big man, who has missed the club’s last two games, “looked fine.”
  • Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James will miss at least the next two games and potentially more as he grapples with fresh, sharp pain in his sprained ankle, Dave McMenamin told Rachel Nichols and Richard Jefferson on ESPN’s The Jump (Twitter video link). A source informed McMenamin that James is “focusing on the big picture” right now. “Does ‘big picture’ mean two more games missed? I’m not so sure,” McMenamin said. “He is clearly prioritizing using every bit of time he can to… get back for the playoffs.”
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford has indicated that five injured players could miss the rest of the 2020/21 NBA season, tweets Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams and power forward Chuma Okeke are both sidelined with ankle sprains. Wing James Ennis is unavailable with a sore calf. Injury-prone forward Otto Porter Jr., who has played in just 28 games this season for the Magic and Bulls, is struggling with foot pain. Swingman Terrence Ross has been felled by back spasms. “I don’t even know what the time frame [is],” Clifford conceded. “If you look at the schedule now, it’s seven games, I think it’d be 12 days, and I’m not sure even if any of those guys are that close, to be honest with you.”

Southeast Notes: Westbrook, Magic, Oladipo, Okeke/Carter

Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook supplied a lengthy response to ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, who claimed (video link) that Westbrook still needed a championship to cement his legacy. “You’ve played with some great great players over the years. Talent. And not a single title to show for it,” Smith said. “The numbers are the numbers… It ain’t about that no more.”

Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets Westbrook’s full statement. “I’m happy,” Westbrook said in part. “I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion… My legacy is what I do off the floor, how many people I’m able to impact and inspire along my journey, man.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Now that the Magic have fully committed to rebuilding their club through their young players and future draft assets, Josh Robbins and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic have opted to assess Orlando’s expected plans for the 2021 draft and beyond, as well as tantalizing new players R.J. Hampton and Wendell Carter Jr. Vecenie and Robbins both feel that Orlando should have perhaps pivoted to a full-tilt rebuild sooner than it did, and agree that the top-heavy 2021 draft should have several intriguing prospects for the Magic.
  • New Heat shooting guard Victor Oladipo is set to debut for Miami on Thursday opposite the Warriors, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel“We’ve had several Zoom sessions,” head coach Erik Spoelstra noted, “just to review and try to fast track our system. But he’s a savvy, high-IQ veteran player.”
  • Magic rookie forward Chuma Okeke and new center/power forward Wendell Carter Jr. are doing their best to capitalize on rotational opportunities with Orlando, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Both players flashed some of their promise down the stretch of a surprise 103-96 win over the Clippers Tuesday.

Southeast Notes: Okeke, Wizards, Heat, Vucevic

Magic rookie Chuma Okeke has been earning rave reviews from his veteran teammates, as Josh Robbins of The Athletic details. Okeke, the No. 16 pick out of Auburn in 2019, missed all of the 2019/20 season as he rehabilitated from a torn left ACL. Fifteen games into his pro career this year, the 22-year-old has already endeared himself to the rest of the club.

“I love Chuma,” Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier said. “I like the player, but I just like the person even more, because he does the right things and he has the right mindset.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards have clawed their way back towards a respectable record thanks to five consecutive wins. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports unpacks how the ascent of second-year forward Rui Hachimura and the club’s hot streak can be traced to a decisive team meeting. The Wizards hope to extend their winning streak to six games tonight as they play the Clippers. Team leaders Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal reviewed their expectations of their teammates’ roles with the players themselves. “Everybody had to talk about it. Everybody started talking and I mentioned, I said ‘I can guard one through five,'” Hachimura said. Since then, he has taken his versatile defense to another level.
  • The Heat are doubling the allowed fan capacity for their home court, AmericanAirlines Arena, from 1,5000 fans to 3,000 people starting with a game tomorrow against the Raptors, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.
  • Magic center Nikola Vučević has been named to his second All-Star team. Josh Robbins of The Athletic explores the steps Vučević took to improve his play this season and become the absolute fulcrum of an injury-depleted 13-19 Orlando club. “He’s an elite decision-maker,” head coach Steve Clifford raved. “He shoots when he should shoot. He passes when he should pass. And he makes his teammates better just by the very nature of how he plays.”

Florida Notes: Mason, Bamba, Heat, Okeke

Newly-signed Magic guard Frank Mason III should be able to provide some offensive firepower to an injury-depleted Orlando squad, according to Josh Cohen of

As a two-way player during the 2019/20 season, Mason played 23 games for the Bucks’ NBAGL affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. The 5’11” University of Kansas alum was the leading scorer in the G League last year, averaging 26.4 PPG. Cohen anticipates Mason’s biggest scoring contribution to the Magic will be via pull-up jumpers off of pick-and-rolls.

There’s more out of the Sunshine State:

  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford has indicated that center Mohamed Bamba has been feeling a minutes squeeze as a result of Orlando’s significant depth at his position, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic“As I explained to him, the reality is this: Our best position by far is the five spot,” Clifford said. “[Nikola Vucevic] is playing at an All-Star level. Khem Birch is not just good now; Khem Birch is having a terrific year. So a lot of it is that. (Bamba) is playing behind two guys who (are excelling).”
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald considers whether the Heat, losers of seven of their last eight games, should pursue an upgrade at the power forward position, and which players could be available. Miami, who made an exciting Finals run in 2020, are currently the No. 13 seed with an 8-13 record. All-Star Jimmy Butler was absent for 10 of those games, however, wherein the club went 2-8. Veteran Spurs forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, and 2017 draftees John Collins and Lauri Markkanen all merit mention.
  • In a 123-108 loss to the Raptors Tuesday, rookie Magic forward Chuma Okeke displayed his scoring prowess, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. The game marked Okeke’s first action since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee on December 31, which kept him out of commission for 16 games. “It feels really good because coming back after being away so long you don’t know how you’re going to play,” Okeke said.

Southeast Notes: Bryant, Leonard, Okeke, Hawks

Wizards center Thomas Bryant underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a partially torn ACL in his left knee, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. Bryant suffered the season-ending injury more than three weeks ago. Bryant, 23, was averaging a career-best 14.3 PPG, along with 6.1 RPG in the team’s first 10 games. He is expected to be sidelined 9-12 months. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after next season.

We have more on the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat are expected to apply for a disabled player exception in the aftermath of Meyers Leonard‘s season-ending shoulder surgery, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The DPE would be worth $4.7MM. A DPE gives a team the opportunity to add an injury replacement by either signing a player to a one-year contract, trading for a player in the final year of his contract, or placing a waiver claim on a player in the final year of his contract.
  • Magic rookie Chuma Okeke returned to action after being out since New Year’s Eve due to a bone bruise in his left knee, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. Okeke tore his left ACL in March 2019 while a sophomore at Auburn but Orlando still chose him with the No. 16 pick in that summer’s draft. He missed last season recovering from that injury.
  • The Hawks invested heavily in the free agent market but they’ve relied on their young players so far with many of those offseason pickups sidelined by injuries, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic notes. Their bench has scored the third-fewest amount of points due to those injuries but they’ve still been able to hover around the .500 mark. “It shows that the hard work we’ve been putting in behind closed doors is paying off,” big man John Collins said. “I feel like just as a team and organization, you’re always going to put a lot of stock into your young players.”

Southeast Notes: MCW, Okeke, Hawks, Wall, Hornets

The Magic will be without Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the season due to their torn ACLs, but the team is moving closer to getting some of its other injured players back on the court. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Steve Clifford said that veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams (foot) could return as soon as Friday after missing Orlando’s last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Clifford couldn’t provide exact timetables for when Magic forwards Chuma Okeke (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) will play again, but did say that Okeke will likely be ready to go before Aminu is, Robbins adds.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After winning 24, 29, and 20 games in the last three seasons, the Hawks are in playoffs-or-bust mode this season, prompting Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer to consider whether the team is finally on the other side of its rebuild. As Tjarks notes, Atlanta has barely gotten anything out of its veteran free agent additions so far, so the emergence of De’Andre Hunter as a capable running mate for Trae Young has been huge.
  • Rockets guard John Wall, who suggested earlier this week that he was disappointed by how the Wizards handled his exit from the franchise, got a chance on Tuesday night to show his old team what it’s missing, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Wall had a team-high 24 points in 24 minutes en route to a 107-88 Houston win over Washington.
  • Hornets head coach James Borrego is still experimenting with his rotation to determine which lineups work best, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. There is not going to be a set rotation for a bit,” Borrego said on Wednesday. The team sent five players to the G League this week, but Borrego still has 11 healthy players available on the NBA roster.

Chuma Okeke Out For Several Weeks With Bone Bruise

Rookie Magic forward Chuma Okeke suffered a left knee bone bruise in the fourth quarter of the club’s 116-92 loss to the Sixers on Thursday, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN adds that Okeke will at least miss several weeks of activity with the injury.

Okeke tore his left ACL in March 2019 while a sophomore at Auburn. Nevertheless, Orlando drafted the 6’8″ forward with the No. 16 pick in that summer’s draft, though he missed the entire 2019/20 season as he continued to recover from the injury. A team source tells Parry that, this time, all ligaments in the knee appear intact following an MRI, and that the timeline of Okeke’s recovery is contingent on treatment.

Okeke averaged 9.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, and 1.28 SPG in 72 games while at Auburn. Still just 22, he is averaging 3.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 1.6 APG across 18.0 MPG in his first five games with the Magic this season.

Southeast Notes: Fournier, Gordon, Anthony, Adebayo, Westbrook

The rookie scale extensions handed to Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac could impact the futures of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon with the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. Fournier is entering his walk year and with the money expended on Fultz and Isaac, it would be tough for the club to re-sign Fournier and remain under the luxury tax, Robbins notes. Gordon and Isaac are best suited as power forwards, so when Isaac returns from his knee injury after this season, Gordon is likely to be dealt, Robbins adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • In a separate piece, Robbins examines how various players on the Magic saw their stock drop or fall during training camp. Notably, rookies Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke saw their stock rise as members of the second unit in preseason games.
  • The Heat locked up Bam Adebayo with a five-year max extension last month. The big money won’t make Adebayo stop looking for ways to improve his game, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. “Just because I got money doesn’t mean that I got complacent,” Adebayo said.
  • There’s a feeling of familiarity for Russell Westbrook with the Wizards, starting with his former coach with the Thunder, Scott Brooks, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. Westbrook is seeking a comfort zone while playing for his third organization in as many seasons. “Really, it’s just being at peace,” Donnell Beverly, Westbrook’s business partner, told Lee. “I don’t think that’s where he’s been the last few years. I don’t think he’s been at peace.”

Southeast Notes: Dunn, Okeke, Heat, Birch

Hawks guard Kris Dunn is hoping to bring a “dog mentality” with his new team on defense, an area where he’s excelled in his short NBA career, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

Dunn signed a two-year, $10MM deal to join Atlanta in free agency. The 26-year-old was one of the better perimeter defenders in the league last season, also averaging 7.3 points, 3.4 assists and 25 minutes per contest. He shot a career-best 44% from the floor in those games, but also a career-worst 26% from deep.

“Just bringing the energy, bringing that dog mentality, basically what I did last year with the Bulls, just bring it over here,” Dunn said of what he plans to bring. “I wouldn’t say ‘teach’ but just bring it over and just bring everybody to a whole new level and a whole new standard, and I think we’ve got a couple great defenders already. I think they just need the motivation and someone out there to also help them and push them to be where they can be.”

In addition to Dunn, the Hawks also signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo in free agency, pairing the duo with new signings Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The team is clearly eyeing a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season after accruing just a 20-47 record last year.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic are eager to see what Chuma Okeke can do this season, but the team is being careful not to put any unnecessary pressure on the 22-year-old, Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Okeke was drafted with the No. 16 pick in 2019 but sat out the entire 2019/20 season to rehab a torn ACL.
  • Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald examines how the Heat‘s first practice at American Airlines Arena in nine months went on Sunday. Miami is coming off a run to the NBA Finals, the franchise’s fifth trip in the past decade. The team lost starting forward Jae Crowder in free agency, as well as Derrick Jones Jr. and Solomon Hill, replacing the trio with Precious Achiuwa, Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless“I just wanted to use it as a template to really see where guys were, what they were able to retain and how quickly the new players are able to get up to speed with things,” Spoelstra said of the practice.
  • Magic center Khem Birch is in the process of developing a corner three-point shot, Josh Cohen of writes. “I’ve been working on my game so I can play with Vooch [Nikola Vucevic] this season,” Birch said. “Working on the corner threes, so when he gets the ball in the post he can kick out, and also being more aggressive. When I’m on the court, a lot of teams tend to think I’m not a threat. I feel like playing with Vooch, I have to be more of a threat this season and that’s what I’ve been working on this offseason.”

Magic Sign 2019 First-Rounder Chuma Okeke

The Magic have officially signed 2019 first-round pick Chuma Okeke to his rookie contract, the team announced today in a press release.

Orlando drafted Okeke with the 16th overall selection last year, having reached an agreement to essentially redshirt him for his first professional season as he recovered from the ACL injury he suffered during the NCAA tournament while playing for Auburn.

The 22-year-old forward signed a G League contract and spent the year rehabbing with the Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s NBAGL affiliate.

Because the NBA’s salary cap didn’t move at all for the 2020/21 season, Okeke will sign the same rookie contract this year that he would’ve received a year ago. Assuming he gets 120% of the standard rookie scale amount, his deal will be worth about $3.12MM in year one and $15.1MM over four years.