Onyeka Okongwu

Southeast Notes: Isaac, Wizards, Delany, Okongwu, Hawks

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is making strides in his recovery from a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes.

Isaac, the No. 6 pick in 2017, suffered the injuries during a game last August. When asked when he’d be able to play in an NBA contest again, Isaac laughed.

“I can’t give you that,” he said. As Robbins notes, Magic officials are strict about giving recovery details out. “I really can’t give you that. But I’m feeling good. I’ve been able to really kind of get moving as of late. I’ve been able to get some work done with Coach on the court, so I feel good. I don’t have a specific timeline on anything, but I’m OK. I’m getting there.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • The Wizards are closing in on hiring Pat Delany as an assistant on Wes Unseld Jr‘s staff, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). Delany most recently served as an assistant coach under Steve Clifford with the Magic.
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines what Onyeka Okongwu‘s shoulder surgery means for the Hawks. Okongwu, the team’s No. 6 pick in 2020, is expected to miss roughly six months due to the surgery. He averaged 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 12 minutes per game in 50 contests this season.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Kirschner explores the Hawks’ incredible season — including some behind-the-scenes stories. Atlanta managed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals largely due to Trae Young‘s career year, losing to the Bucks in six games.

Hawks’ Okongwu Out Six Months Following Shoulder Surgery

Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery in Los Angeles on Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the team announced in a press release.

According to the Hawks, Okongwu will enter a period of rest and rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery from the procedure in about six months. That means we likely won’t see him back on the court until at least mid-January, if not later.

The sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft, Okongwu initially wasn’t part of Atlanta’s regular rotation, but earned an increased role during the second half of the season and appeared in all 18 of the club’s postseason games. He averaged 4.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG on 64.4% shooting in 50 regular season contests (12.0 MPG), and earned praise from president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk for his improvement during the regular season and playoffs.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Okongwu’s shoulder issue began to bother him in May and the club eventually determined surgery was necessary in order to address the big man’s lingering discomfort.

It’s a tough blow for the Hawks, who may now be in the market for additional frontcourt help this offseason, since Okongwu had been set to enter the 2021/22 season as Clint Capela‘s primary backup at center. If Atlanta isn’t confident in Bruno Fernando‘s ability to fill that role with Okongwu out, the team figures to add another center via trade or free agency.

Hawks Notes: Williams, Backup PG, Okongwu, Roster

Lou Williams had considered retiring after the trade that sent him from the Clippers to the Hawks, but after Atlanta’s miraculous Eastern Conference Finals run, he’s thinking about coming back, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Blessing in disguise. ATL, thank you,” Williams wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “I appreciate the warm welcome back. My teammates and staff was nothing less than amazing to me. Love. #6man #undergroundgoat #thinkimcomingback.

The three-time Sixth Man of the Year is entering unrestricted free agency this summer.

We have more news from the Hawks:

  • While the Hawks are open to bringing back Williams, Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk views the backup point guard spot as an area the team will try to upgrade this offseason, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. “It’s no secret that we’ve always struggled to field a consistent role is at the backup point guard spot,” Schlenk said. “We’ve had a couple of different guys. I think that’ll be one area where we look to shore up this offseason.”
  • Schlenk expressed confidence in the team’s big men, including Clint Capela and John Collins, after Brook Lopez stepped up to provide a big offensive presence following the injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo. “When you get to the part of the season where we got to — the Eastern Conference finals — you’re playing against good teams and good players,” Schlenk said. “I have confidence in the big guys on our roster to be able to compete.”
  • On rookie center Onyeka Okongwu, Schlenk said: “I told ‘O’ yesterday I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player improve so much from the beginning of the playoffs to the end of the playoffs… Told him he should be extremely proud. But there’s a lot more there. And ‘O’ knows that and we feel like that. He’s only going to get better.”
  • Schlenk also touched on the roster-building challenges the team will face as a number of its current players get more expensive. “Obviously it’s a lot easier when you have guys on rookie-scale deals to build out your roster,” Schlenk said, “but once those deals come up, and those players start making bigger money, you really are limited on the ways to add to your team.”

Hawks Notes: Playoff Prospects, Okongwu, Hunter, Rondo

The Hawks have assembled a roster that could be a surprise force in the East when the playoffs start, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. General manager Travis Schlenk focused on adding shooting over the offseason, signing Bogdan Bogdanovic as a free agent and trading for Danilo Gallinari and Tony Snell.

Atlanta made a powerful impression on the Suns this week, putting up 135 points in a 32-point victory.

“They have a lot of guys who can knock down shots, but not just 3-point shots,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “Bogdanovic and Trae (Young) are two guys who can get into the paint and make shots creating off the dribble. (Clint) Capela has been huge for them. He generates offense diving and gets extra possessions. His defense covers up a lot of the mistakes that the guards can make. Gallinari is a versatile scorer. They’re deep. They look like a playoff team. They look like they’re getting into playoff shape. I don’t think many teams want to play them if they’re going to continue to shoot the ball like that.”

There’s more on the Hawks:

  • Lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu hasn’t been impactful during his rookie season, playing just 11.6 minutes per night and averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds, but he’s turned in some recent performances that may cause coach Nate McMillan to consider him for the postseason rotation, Kirschner adds. One of those came against the Suns, when he had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench. “A young guy like that, he seems to get better each time he steps on the floor,” McMillan said. “… As long as he continues to play like that and show growth, he’ll get minutes. This year is basically a year for him to get his feet wet and get out there and just play.”
  • De’Andre Hunter continues to make progress toward returning from an injured right knee, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was able to play five-on-five today, and the team will wait to see how his knee responds Sunday before planning his next step.
  • Former Hawks guard Rajon Rondo praised the organization this week for how it handled his trade to the Clippers, relays KL Chouinard of NBA.com (Twitter link). “Travis (Schlenk) and I talked a couple of days before and that morning as well,” Rondo said on a TNT interview. “We had a conversation. It was a pleasant one, and one that I never had in my entire career. Big ups to the Hawks organization. I wish those guys well.”

Fischer’s Latest: Beal, Wizards, Pelicans, Hawks, Ujiri

Reiterating a point made by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday and Wizards head coach Scott Brooks on Saturday, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report confirms that Bradley Beal is not available via trade, citing one longtime executive who notes that the team’s stance on the matter appears sincere and isn’t a bluff to drive up the guard’s price.

Despite there being no change in Beal’s potential availability, it continues to be a popular subject of speculation around the NBA. As Fischer explains, opposing front offices anticipate an “inevitable inflection point,” since there’s an expectation that the Wizards won’t be able to transform into a contender before Beal becomes eligible for free agency in 2022.

That inflection point isn’t here yet though, and the expectation is that it won’t arrive prior to this season’s trade deadline. According to Fischer, there’s a sentiment around the league that, regardless of Washington’s record, team ownership is unlikely to approve a Beal trade until the 2021 offseason at the very earliest.

“Teams say it all the time, but you feel like it’s real,” one assistant GM told Fischer, referring to the Wizards’ unwillingness to engage.

Here are a few more items of note from Fischer’s latest report:

  • New Orleans’ interest in Beal is one of the “biggest open secrets” around the league, according to Fischer, who suggests that the Pelicans and Hawks could be among the potential suitors for the Wizards guard if he eventually hits the trade block. Washington had been eyeing Onyeka Okongwu with the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft before Atlanta scooped him up at No. 6, Fischer notes.
  • The Hawks “widely signaled” prior to draft night in the fall that Kevin Huerter was available via trade, per Fischer. It’s unclear whether the team’s stance has changed at all since then or if Huerter will be a trade candidate at next month’s deadline.
  • Word in NBA circles is that the Wizards may try to make another run at Masai Ujiri this summer, according to Fischer, who says the franchise has some deep-pocketed minority stakeholders interested in pursuing the Raptors‘ president of basketball operations. Although the Wizards denied it at the time, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in June 2019 that the club was ready to make an aggressive offer to Ujiri, whose contract with Toronto expires later this year.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Okongwu, Fultz, Hornets

The Wizards are promoting Amber Nichols, naming her the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s G League affiliate, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Nichols, who had previously been the Go-Go’s assistant GM, becomes the second female general manager in the NBAGL, joining Tori Miller of the College Park Skyhawks.

The Capital City Go-Go opted out of this season’s G League bubble, so the team won’t be in action again until 2021/22. However, Nichols figures to be keeping a close eye in the coming weeks on the Erie BayHawks, New Orleans’ affiliate. The Wizards are sending four affiliate players and a player development coach to Erie for the upcoming NBAGL season.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, has yet to make his NBA debut as he recovers from a left foot injury. However, he’s not on the Hawks‘ latest injury report, and Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) says Okongwu is excited to get back on the court. Now I’m really feeling good,” he said. “Now I’m really feeling like my old self.”
  • Magic officials and players have said that Markelle Fultz has remained upbeat as he begins the long process of coming back from a torn ACL, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “I think he’s got a great attitude about the whole thing,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “Let’s put it this way: He’s handling his injury a lot better than his coach is.”
  • Hornets assistant Jay Hernandez will be heading to the G League bubble to coach the Greensboro Swarm next month, according to a press release from the team. Hernandez will return to the Hornets when the NBAGL season ends. “This plays to my strengths, and is also something I want and need to do,” Hernandez told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “… I know all (the Hornets’) teaching points, I know the talking points. I can go in there very confidently, knowing exactly what (Hornets coach James Borrego) wants to do and how he wants to do it.”

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Vincent, Monk, Pierce

Earlier this week, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk updated Mike Conti of Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (Twitter link) on the health and availability status of a handful of Atlanta players. Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and center Onyeka Okongwu could be available later this week. Sharpshooting forward Danilo Gallinari, a pricey offseason acquisition, will not be traveling with the club on the road this week but is nearing his own return.

Hawks shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, however, will miss “several weeks” as he continues to rehabilitate from the avulsion fracture in his right knee. JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets that later examinations did not reveal further ligament damage.

Meanwhile, after requiring a walking boot following a December 29 right ankle surgery, Hawks reserve guard Kris Dunn had the boot removed today, Sarah K. Spence of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Twitter link). He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • With the Heat lineup limited by coronavirus health and safety protocols and injuries, sharpshooting guard Gabe Vincent showcased his ability to perform at the NBA level, scoring a career-best 24 points in a 137-134 Tuesday overtime defeat to the Sixers. Vincent, signed to a two-way contract this season, could warrant a look even when all of Miami’s players return, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “He is a very good basketball player,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That extends far beyond spot-up shooting … Can guard multiple positions, competes, good team defender. Rebounds at his position. Offensively, you can play him like we did last night as our point guard.”
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer posits that shooting guard Malik Monk might be just what the doctor ordered as the Hornets struggle on offense. Monk not been a part of the Charlotte rotation yet this season. The 22-year-old has appeared in just two games for Charlotte this season, averaging 5.5 MPG. Across his four-year career, he is averaging 8.5 PPG, 1.9 APG and 1.7 APG.
  • In a roundtable of NBA writers for The Athletic, Chris Kirschner opines that Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce will be on the figurative “hot seat” this season. After a blistering 4-1 start, the Hawks went 1-4 in their subsequent five games. Several of those defeats came at the hands of the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Hornets, hardly Eastern Conference powerhouses. The Hawks are currently hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the East, having lavished significant offseason money on veteran depth.

Injury/Coronavirus Updates: Craig, Butler, Okongwu, Snell, Caruso, Anthony

Bucks swingman Torrey Craig suffered a nasal fracture on Sunday against the Knicks and won’t play against the Heat on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Craig signed with Milwaukee last month after the Nuggets failed to extend a qualifying offer.

We have more injury and COVID-19 news:

  • Heat star Jimmy Butler is doubtful to play against the Bucks on Tuesday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler sprained an ankle during the team’s game on Friday.
  • Hawks rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu (left foot inflammation) and guard Tony Snell (right foot inflammation) have been cleared to progress to live contact workouts, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets.
  • Alex Caruso became the first Lakers player to miss a game due to COVID-19 protocols. Caruso sat out against Portland on Monday. Coach Frank Vogel said no other players or staff members were held out due to contact tracing, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony wasn’t with his team due to the same reason, as Casey Holdahl tweets.

Lottery Pick Okongwu Won’t Suit Up For Opener

Hawks lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu will miss at least the first three regular-season games, according to a team press release.

The rookie big man out of USC is recovering from inflammation of the sesamoid bone in his left foot. He has participated in modified team practice with contact and is progressing toward unlimited team practice. He will be reviewed again on December 28.

The Hawks will open the season on Wednesday against the Bulls. They’ll also play the Grizzlies (Dec. 26), Pistons (Dec. 28) and Nets (Dec. 3o) before New Year’s Day.

Okongwu, who turned 20 this month, was a one-and-done player. In his season with the Trojans, he started 28 games and averaged 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 2.7 BPG in 30.6 MPG. He was the sixth overall pick.

The Hawks previously announced that guard and free agent acquisition Kris Dunn would miss the opener.

Kris Dunn To Miss At Least Three Games

Hawks guard Kris Dunn will miss at least the first three games of the regular season with what the team describes in a press release as a right knee cartilage disruption.

Dunn will be “reviewed” on December 28 and a status update will be provided at that time. The Hawks open the season on December 23 against Dunn’s former team, the Bulls. They’ll also play the Grizzlies (Dec. 26), Pistons (Dec.28) and Nets (Dec. 3o) this month.

Dunn has begun participating in individual workouts with contact and is progressing toward live team practice. One of several free agent signings the Hawks made in recent weeks, Dunn inked a two-year, $10MM contract with a second-year player option.

In the short run, Atlanta has enough guard depth to make up for his absence. Noted for his defensive prowess, Dunn is expected to play a key reserve role as a combo guard.

A former fifth overall pick, Dunn averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .444/.259/.741 shooting in 51 games (24.9 MPG) last season for Chicago. The Bulls decided not to make him a restricted free agent, passing on their qualifying offer.

The press release also provided an update on lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu, who is dealing with inflammation of the sesamoid bone in his left foot. The former USC big man has begun participating in modified team practice with contact and is progressing towards unlimited team practice. He will be reviewed on December 18.