Emeka Okafor

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Perkins, S. Brown, Wood

Two NBA veterans have been among the most impressive G League standouts early in the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Emeka Okafor, 35, has spent the past four years recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. He joined the Sixers for training camp and opted to stay with the organization’s affiliate in Delaware. He is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting better than 60% from the field.

Kendrick Perkins was the Cavaliers’ final roster cut and went to Cleveland’s affiliate in Canton. He is averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games. He has dropped weight and may still be able to help an NBA team at age 33.

There’s more news from the NBA and the G League:

  • Today is an important day for four players who were claimed off waivers during the offseason, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The BullsDavid Nwaba and Kay Felder, the HawksNicolas Brussino and the BucksDeAndre Liggins are all now eligible to be traded.
  • The Sixers used the remainder of this year’s cap space for the renegotiation/extension with Robert Covington, leaving just eight teams with cap room, according to Marks (Twitter link). They are the Bulls [$15.1MM], Mavericks [$12.5MM], Suns [$8.9MM], Pacers [$6.1MM], Kings [$4.3MM], Nets [$3.4MM], Hawks [$589K] and Magic [$549K].
  • Veteran guard Shannon Brown has been claimed from the G League player pool by the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways and 10 Days. The 31-year-old last played in the NBA in 2014, when he appeared in five games with the Heat.
  • Christian Wood has joined the Delaware 87ers as a returning player, according to Reichert (Twitter link). He played 13 games for the Hornets last year and ended the season in the G League.
  • International stars are having a greater impact on the NBA than ever before, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Many of the league’s best young players hail from overseas, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis, both considered early-season MVP candidates, along with Ben SimmonsAndrew WigginsJoel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Ziller credits former commissioner David Stern for his focus on expanding the league to overseas markets. That strategy not only created more revenue, it exposed the NBA to an international audience and created a new reservoir of players.

Emeka Okafor To Play For Sixers’ G League Team

Former second overall pick Emeka Okafor has opted to join the Sixers’ G League team, the Delaware 87ers, after being cut today by Philadelphia, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. According to Begley, Okafor will look to boost his value with his G League play, in the hopes of signing with an NBA team at some point this season.

Okafor last played in the NBA during the 2012/13 campaign, making 77 starts at center for the Wizards that season. However, injury issues – including a herniated disc in his neck – derailed Okafor’s career. The 35-year-old center indicated earlier this summer that he had been medically cleared and hoped to make it back to the NBA, but he wasn’t able to break camp with the 76ers.

Because Okafor has never played in the G League before, the Sixers have the opportunity to make him one of their affiliate players. Teams can assign up to four players they’ve waived to their G League affiliate, assuming those players sign G League contracts. Okafor figures to be joined in Delaware by James Blackmon, Andrew Andrews, and Marc Loving.

Sixers Waive Kris Humphries, Two Others

OCTOBER 14: The Sixers have officially waived Humphries, Okafor, and Blackmon, the team announced today in a press release.

OCTOBER 13: The Sixers have released a pair of veteran big men hoping to extend their NBA careers, as well as an undrafted rookie. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the team has informed Kris Humphries, Emeka Okafor and James Blackmon that they will not remain with the club.

Humphries, a 32-year-old veteran of 11 NBA seasons, last played for the Hawks in 2016/17 and could still plausibly end up on yet another NBA roster before the season is through.

Okafor, a distant cousin of Philadelphia backup center Jahlil Okafor, was hoping to return to the court for the first time since 2012/13 at 35 years of age.

While the veterans will likely seek NBA opportunities elsewhere, Blackmon could end up with the team’s G League squad as an affiliate player. The guard strung together three impressive seasons at Indiana before declaring for the draft as an early entrant.

Sixers Sign Emeka Okafor

The Sixers have finalized their 20-man roster for training camp, announcing today in a press release that they’ve signed veteran center Emeka Okafor to fill their final roster spot. The club also confirmed that Kris Humphries, whose deal with Philadelphia was previously reported, is now formally under contract as well.

Okafor, who will turn 35 later this week, last played in the NBA during the 2012/13 campaign, making 77 starts at center for the Wizards that season. However, injury issues – including a herniated disc in the big man’s neck – derailed Okafor’s career. The former second overall pick indicated earlier this summer that he had been medically cleared and hoped to make it back to the NBA.

While Okafor will attend training camp with the Sixers, it remains to be seen if the club will represent his path back to a spot on a regular season roster. Philadelphia only has 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts, but Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, and T.J. McConnell all seem likely to make the 15-man squad on non-guaranteed deals. Even if the 76ers were to waive or trade one of their top 15 players, Okafor would still have to beat out other camp invitees, including Humphries.

Still, it’s good to see the former UConn standout get another shot. In 590 career regular season contests in Charlotte, New Orleans, and Washington, Okafor has nearly averaged a double-double, with 12.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 1.7 BPG.

Okafor is a distant cousin of current Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor.

Emeka Okafor Determined To Return To NBA

Emeka Okafor has been medically cleared to return, is working out, and is poised to play in the NBA again, reports Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press (link via Twitter).

Okafor played nine seasons with three different organizations, last suiting up for the Wizards during the 2012/13 campaign. As a member of the Bobcats, the center was named Rookie of the Year in 2005. Okafor has averaged 12.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 1.7 BPG in his career. The former Connecticut Huskies star started an impressive 584 of the 590 NBA games in which he played. A herniated disc in the neck caused the veteran’s NBA career to be interrupted.The former NCAA champion will turn 35 years old in just under four months.

Krawczynski also tweets that Okafor has already been in touch with some teams.

Emeka Okafor Eyes Return; Warriors Interested?

Emeka Okafor is planning a comeback after sitting out the past three seasons, Jackie MacMullen of ESPN.com reports. Okafor is hopeful of hooking on with a playoff contender in December or January, MacMullen continues.

The 33-year-old center called it quits following the 2012/13 season because of a herniated disc in his neck. Okafor, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft, started 77 of 79 games with the Wizards in his last season.

Okafor’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, told MacMullen that Okafor needs more time to get his body ready for the NBA grind, but is optimistic that teams will be interested in his client once he’s in basketball shape. “He’s probably five or six months away,” Schwartz said. “He’s been working hard rehabbing.”

The Warriors had a conversation with Okafor in recent months and will continue to monitor his progress, Golden State GM Bob Myers informed MacMullen. The Warriors, Cavs and Heat spoke with Okafor last season but he decided at that time he wasn’t ready to return.

“We have 14 players right now, but you learn every year that someone you didn’t expect to be available becomes an option,” Myers told MacMullen.

Okafor averaged 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds over nine seasons before the injury.

Emeka Okafor To Delay Return Until 2015/16?

With numerous teams around the league seeking frontcourt help, the pool of available players may just get a tad thinner. Veteran center Emeka Okafor is giving strong consideration to delaying his comeback from a neck injury until next season, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports. Stein’s sources say that Okafor, who missed the entire 2013/14 campaign after he suffered a herniated disk in his neck, could wait until this summer before inking a deal with a new team in order to give himself more time to continue strength and conditioning work.

According to Stein, numerous teams with a need for a rim protecting big man, including the Cavs, Mavs, and the Heat, have interest in signing Okafor if he decided to play this year. Prior to the season, nearly half of the teams in the league reportedly had interest in the services of the 32-year-old veteran out of Connecticut. Okafor had reportedly auditioned for the Clippers back in August, but the two sides did not reach a contract arrangement.

Okafor’s last action came during the 2012/13 season when he averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per contest for the Wizards. Prior to the beginning of the 2013/14 season, the Wizards dealt Okafor to the Suns for Marcin Gortat. Both sides were aware that Okafor was likely to miss the entire season with his injury, but Phoenix was interested in Okafor’s expiring $14.5MM contract to use as a potential trade chip, though no deal involving Okafor ever came to fruition for the Suns.

In nine seasons, Okafor’s career numbers are 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. His career slash line is .512/.000/.584.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Emeka Okafor

Of the league’s remaining unsigned free agents, Emeka Okafor is at the very top of the list in earnings from last year. Despite not playing a single game with the Suns, Okafor raked in $14.5MM in the last year of the six-year, $72MM deal he originally signed with Charlotte. If and when Okafor does receive a new NBA contract, it will almost certainly be for a massive pay reduction.

A herniated disc in Okafor’s neck was the reason the center missed all of 2013/14 and will likely remain unsigned for the near future. After playing 79 games for the Wizards in 2012/13, the ailment was discovered last preseason and wrecked his entire 2013/14 campaign. Okafor was subsequently traded to the Suns, who planned on flipping his contract for another asset. The center was viewed by many as a hot commodity, but his value was exclusively tied to his substantial expiring salary, which would have been useful in clearing cap space for a potential recipient. Phoenix had extensive discussions with the Lakers about moving Okafor as part of a trade to acquire Pau Gasol, but a deal never materialized.

If the status of his health weren’t up in the air, Okafor would most likely be signed by now. An intimidating interior defensive presence, the former No. 2 pick has averaged 1.7 blocks for his career, a number bolstering a virtual double-double career average in points (12.3) and rebounds (9.9) per game. The veteran did show signs of offensive decline the last season he saw the floor, turning in a career-worst .278 rate of free throw attempts per field goal attempts and a .496 true shooting percentage, well below his career average of .535. However, he still produced an above average PER of 15.8 for Washington, and maintained an elite defensive impact. While his blocks per game dropped to a career-worst 1.0, he generated a 99 defensive rating, according to his Basketball-Reference page, and 3.7 defensive win shares, top-10 and top-25 marks for the season, respectively.

Ongoing concerns about Okafor’s neck have prevented the big man from securing a deal, but they haven’t kept roughly half of the league from registering interest in his services. Contenders including the Heat, Cavs, and Clippers are among the teams interested. Those teams make a lot of on-the-court sense, as a steady rim-protector is always high on a playoff hopeful’s wishlist. The Clippers are the only team that has reportedly worked out Okafor, and they have since signed Ekpe Udoh in a move that would presumably reduce their need for Okafor on the roster. The Heat were considering both Okafor and Udoh as potential interior additions, so while Udoh’s deal with Los Angeles may hurt Okafor’s prospects there, it could very well help his outlook in Miami.

While no word has surfaced on the impression Okafor’s workout left, the league is wary of his lingering medical issues. He isn’t expected to sign anywhere until mid-season, and it’s unclear if doctors have cleared him for full basketball activities at this point. As much as a big, defensively disruptive body excites general managers, the thought of a big, ailing body under contract distresses them.

All of the teams known to be interested in Okafor are limited to paying the veteran’s minimum, as are most contenders in general at this stage in the offseason. If Okafor were to alleviate concerns about his health, a minimum salary would seem to be a discount for a player of his caliber. Elton Brand doesn’t have the same ceiling as Okafor at this stage in his career, but he just received a $2MM contract for 2014/15 on the merits of being a sturdy big off the bench. Chris Andersen, another big man expected to fill a role that’s smaller or similar to the one Okafor might play, re-signed with the Heat for two years and $10MM. Of course, Okafor may be willing to play on a one-year deal for the minimum for the chance to contend and demonstrate his viability looking toward next summer and a more lucrative deal.

Okafor could end up with more options if he waits until midseason to look for a deal. In-season pickups earn prorated salaries, meaning a team without room to squeeze the big man under the tax line now could conceivably do so later in the season, when a minimum contract’s payout would shrink. As always, opportunities could open up for Okafor if any teams lose a frontcourt piece to injury. Teams currently unable to offer Okafor more than the minimum could gain that flexibility if granted a disabled player exception after a season-ending injury to one of their players.

At this point, we’re more likely to hear updates on Okafor’s health than any announcement of a signing. The center has bounced back from injury before throughout a solid career, and I expect him to do so again. Don’t be surprised if Okafor is unemployed as the regular season opens, but making a difference once the postseason arrives.

Emeka Okafor Drawing Widespread Interest

MONDAY, 1:45pm: Teams had been taking a cautious approach in evaluating Okafor as of a few weeks ago, as J. Michael of CSNWashington says today, adding that the center has much to prove before doctors would declare him healthy (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether teams have become more optimistic since Michael last heard news on the center.

SUNDAY, 10:46pm: Emeka Okafor is in high demand even after missing all of 2013/14, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. In fact, roughly half of the league has registered interest this summer in the big man. Okafor is nonetheless unlikely to sign anywhere until midseason given the lingering effects of his neck injury, Stein also hears.

A number of teams, including contending clubs, would like to add the 31-year-old Okafor to their benches. The Cavs and Heat are among the teams to have checked in, according to Stein, echoing an earlier report from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that identified the Heat’s interest in the 10-year veteran.

Okafor suffered his injury in the preseason while with Washington last October and was dealt to the Suns shortly before opening night in the trade that brought Marcin Gortat to the Wizards.  Okafor’s nearly $14.5MM expiring contract was linked in trade rumors to Pau Gasol and others, but the Suns never found a deal to their liking that would have allowed them to flip Okafor before his lucrative pact ran out.

Okafor was one of a handful of big men to reportedly audition for the Clippers earlier this month.

Heat Rumors: Douglas-Roberts, Crawford, Okafor

The Heat have far outpaced all other teams in free agent spending this summer, as I chronicled earlier this week. Miami is limited to the minimum salary at this point, which wouldn’t add to the total of more than $220MM that appears on my list, since it didn’t take into account anyone on a minimum-salary deal. Still, Pat Riley and company continue to scour the market, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald and Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel detail. We’ll highlight the latest here:

  • The Heat worked out Chris Douglas-Roberts, as Jackson writes in his latest dispatch after reporting late last month that the team was interested in the five-year veteran. Miami, which is looking to add a shooting guard, also worked out Jordan Hamilton, according to Jackson, though Hamilton instead wound up signing with the Raptors.
  • Miami has reached out to Jordan Crawford, too, and while the Heat like the former first-round pick, as Jackson writes, it doesn’t appear he’s reached the audition stage. Jackson confirms Miami’s interest in Leandro Barbosa.
  • There are other teams in the mix for Barbosa, but they, like the Heat, want to see if he can stay healthy as well as how he performs for Brazil in the upcoming FIBA World Cup, Winderman writes. The Sun Sentinel scribe believes the Heat would choose Crawford over Barbosa if it came to that.
  • Riley and his staff have been eyeing Emeka Okafor and Ekpe Udoh, as finding a big man has been team’s other focus, Jackson reports. There have been question marks about Okafor’s health, and while he and Udoh have also drawn interest from the Clippers, there hasn’t been much chatter this summer surrounding either former top-10 pick.
  • The Heat made preliminary inquiries about Andray Blatche and Jason Maxiell, according to Jackson. Miami has been reluctant to sign Blatche in the past out of concern about his maturity level and behavior, as Jackson wrote a couple of weeks ago, but apparently the team won’t definitively rule him out. The market for Maxiell has been quiet since the Magic let him go on the Fourth of July.
  • Agent David Falk spoke with the Heat about Elton Brand, but it’s unlikely that the 35-year-old will join Miami for this season, Jackson says. The Hawks and Knicks reportedly had their sights set on Brand as free agency began, but Brand rumors have otherwise proven scarce.
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