The Washington Wizards' return to relevance took a major hit Wednesday with the announcement that starting center Emeka Okafor will be out indefinitely due to a herniated disc in his neck. His absence will take a nice slice out of the team's impressive defense as lesser players fill those minutes.
Throughout the summer, hopes were fairly high in Washington, but the possibility of injury always loomed over this roster. A lineup featuring John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and Okafor would likely be a surefire playoff team over 82 games, but it's proven nearly impossible to have all four healthy and contributing at the same time.
So instead of gearing up for the preseason with a loaded roster, the Wizards will limp in hoping to patch things together as time goes. For fans, it likely conjures flashbacks to last season, when point guard John Wall's stress injury torpedoed any chance of reaching the postseason long before Christmas.
While this all sounds pretty bad, Bullets Forever reports Okafor said during a conference call that the injury shouldn't require surgery. Doctors believe physical therapy will treat most of his issues and he'll be able to return this season, though a timetable hasn't been set.
After also announcing surgery for Chris Singleton on Wednesday, the Wizards will be without two big men entering next season. Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely will presumably be asked to step up in the early going.
In some less grave injury news, Nets point guard Deron Williams suffered a sprained ankle and bone bruise while working out in Utah recently. Neither injury should keep the All-Star from being ready for training camp on Oct. 1, but NetsDaily's Tom Lorenzo gives some background:
A real concern, though, is that Williams has repeatedly dealt with ankle injuries, most recently missing time last season which ultimately led to cortisone shots and PRP (patelet-rich plasma) injections in his ankles.
However, none of this should be blown out of proportion. The current treatment to Williams is mostly precautionary with the season around the corner, and Lorenzo added, "given his history dealing with ankle injuries, it's hard to blame him for being cautious."
Any concern about Paul George leaving the Indiana Pacers should have been assuaged Wednesday as the star forward said a deal should get done before the season. Arguably Indiana's most important player, George offered some words of optimism to the Indianapolis Star:
"(A long-term contract) is going to get done. There will be a deal signed and sealed on the table before the season. We're (George and Pacers management) on the same page."
With players like Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill already signed to multi-year deals, retaining George would give the Pacers a young core as impressive as any in the NBA. Set to make less than $4 million in 2012-13, he'll presumably command a max contract starting at around $14 million for 2014-15.
After spending his first three NBA seasons as Jeff Pendergraph, the San Antonio Spurs forward will be going under a different name this season. In August, the 26-year-old legally changed his name to Jeff Ayres, replacing his stepfather's surname with that of his biological father.
As explained by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, Ayres officially left a Phoenix courthouse last month with his new last name. Since losing touch with his stepfather in high school, Ayres gradually reconnected with his biological father and decided to honor that by leaving the Pendergraph name behind.
While it takes away one of the more unusual surnames in the NBA, Ayres' two-year deal with the Spurs really seems to represent a new chapter in his career. After playing well as a reserve for the Pacers last season, he should fit well on a contending San Antonio team going forward.