Okafor’s absence causing tension?

Published: October 23, 2009

Interesting article from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, who reports that Emeka Okafor isn’t winning over his Hornets’ teammates with his slow recovery from that toe injury. A few excerpts:

An NBA source told Yahoo! Sports that Okafor was cleared to play by the Hornets’ medical staff two weeks ago and by his own doctor a week later. Most of Okafor’s teammates know he has been cleared and are eager to see whether he works out with them for the first time over the weekend.

“He better practice Sunday or he could lose some guys,” one Hornet said.

Prior to the Hornets’ shootaround on Thursday morning, Okafor acknowledged he has been medically cleared to play “based on how I feel.” He said he hopes to practice on Sunday.

“He might have been cleared medically, but from a mental standpoint he is not cleared,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “In his mind, he says he’s not ready. When you have a guy that says he is not ready, the worst thing you can do is force him to get out there.”…

So far, Okafor hasn’t participated in anything with his teammates aside from walking through the Hornets’ offense during one practice. Point guard Chris Paul coaxed him to participate in the walk-through, one team source said…

Okafor said the injury has been more serious than it appears.

“You can ask anyone that’s had a toe injury, it sounds super weak and it sounds like an insignificant thing,” Okafor said. “But that’s your foundation. You can have a nice house, and a foundation has a crack in it and then it’s all for naught. The whole thing comes crumbling down.

“People don’t realize how much your toe has to do with your movements. That’s carrying your whole weight. If something is off that carries your whole weight and you’re not careful, it’s something that can trickle and cause other things to mess up. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. You want to give your body a chance to not only heal short-term, but long-term.”

I’m inclined to believe that Okafor is doing what he feels is best from him and the team. I buy that explanation he gives about his slow recovery. This is a guy that had some serious injury problems early in his career, missing a combined 80 games in his first three seasons. But he’s played all 82 in the past two seasons, suggesting that he’s taken better precautions to stay healthy.

After Tyson Chandler’s injury woes last season, I’d rather see Okafor being overcautious in October, rather than him risk cracking that foundation and the team missing him in March and April.

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