USC Hoops: Onyeka Okongwu's Return Getting Close

The Hawks are battling for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and could be getting the help of their lottery pick very soon.
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Going through 5-on-5 drills is one of the final steps for sixth overall pick Onyeka Okongwu to return to the court. According to multiple reports, Friday was the first time he was able to do so.

Okongwu has been ramping up his activities this week, participating in 3-on-3 drills. He’s been out since he was diagnosed with inflammation of the sesamoid bone on Nov. 20, and did not play with the Hawks during the preseason. Once the former USC Trojan was ruled out for the first couple of games of the season, the team announced they would re-evaluate him on Dec. 28th.

On Dec. 29th we got an update from Okongwu himself. 

Okongwu was ruled out of Saturday's game against the Charlotte Hornets. His next chance to play will be Monday when the Atlanta Hawks take on the Philadelphia 76ers, but nothing is certain.

Minutes for the backup big is currently available with Danilo Gallinari out with a sprained ankle. Okongwu can come in right away and help with transition offense, screen setting, interior defense, and rebounding. The Hawks are currently giving up the third most points per 100 possessions (114) in the NBA, adding someone who set USC’s freshman record for blocks in a season (76) could be the difference in making or missing the playoffs in a deep Eastern Conference.

If Okongwu lives up to his draft status, the Hawks may have to make some tough decisions with PF/C John Collins after failing to reach a contract extension by Dec. 21. This means he will be entering free agency in 2021, likely as a restricted free agent.

It’s been months since Okongwu played competitive basketball and the wait shouldn’t be much longer.

[Read: USC Hoops: Men's March Madness Will Be Held In A Bubble In Indiana]

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