Washington Wizards center Emeka Okafor is out indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck, General Manager Ernie Grunfeld announced Wednesday.
The news comes on the same day the Wizards learned that backup forward Chris Singleton will be out six to eight weeks with a foot fracture, which means he will potentially miss the first few weeks of the season. The problem with Okafor was discovered after an MRI was done because he was experiencing discomfort in his neck. Okafor called the setback "disappointing and frustrating," according to an NBA.com report:
"I have worked hard over the summer and was looking forward to the start of training camp next week, so this is a disappointing and frustrating situation for me. But I have confidence that my teammates and coaches will be able to continue to take steps towards our goal of making the playoffs and that I will be able to do my part to help them once I return."
The Wizards' loss of Okafor weakens an already thin frontcourt, as the oft-injured Brazilian, Nene, and reserve big man 23-year-old Kevin Seraphin out of France will be tasked with anchoring the team's defense down low. The Wizards passed up on signing seven-footer Jason Collins this summer after acquiring him and Nene's fellow countryman, Leandro Barbosa, in the deadline deal that sent guard Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics last February.
Okafor, who turns 31 at the end of September, had played a pivotal role in the Wizards' rotation last season, one that saw the team finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 29-53 record. After appearing in only 27 games for New Orleans in 2011, Okafor was traded to the Wizards in the 2012 offseason, along with swingman Trevor Ariza. The cap-clearing deal for the Wizards sent Rashard Lewis to the Hornets, who waived him days later to rid themselves of the final year of Lewis' six-year, $118 million contract. Okafor went on to become a much more reliable player in Washington, missing only three games last season while averaging nearly a double-double with 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Grunfeld said that Okafor, whose real name is Chukwuemeka Ndubuisi "Emeka" Okafor, is one of the hardest working players he's ever seen in the league and trusts that he will return to the court as soon as his health permits:
"Emeka’s professionalism and dedication to taking care of his body are among the best I have ever seen during my time in this league as a player, coach and executive and I know that he will be diligent in his efforts to return to the court as soon as possible. Until then, his absence will create opportunities for other players to step up and provide the rebounding and defense that Emeka normally contributes.