What will Wizards do without Okafor?

What will Wizards do without Okafor?
September 18, 2013, 3:30 pm
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(Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

With the Wizards in a bit of a pickle without center Emeka Okafor, who was determined to be out indefinitely Wednesday because of a herniated disk in his neck, these are frequently asked questions that need to be answered:

Will the Wizards sign another free agent? Based on what I've been told by persons with knowledge of the situation today, no. There are two reasons why: They don't believe there's another player available as a free agent who is better than their current options Kevin Seraphin, Nene, Al Harrington and Jan Vesely. And remember, every team is allowed a maximum of 15 players under contract to start the season, and that includes injured players. Okafor has not been ruled out for the season. 

Will the Wizard make a trade? Unlikely simply because they're not in a position of leverage. Whatever offers they receive probably won't be ideal. Make a hasty decision over an injury that could heal quickly could cost them in the long run. Besides, making trades is easier said than done particularly with the salary cap rules that require close matching salaries in the value of players traded. The Wizards could have almost $30 million come off the books after this season with Okafor and Trevor Ariza in the final year of expiring deals, Chris Singleton and Vesely entering option years on their rookie deals and a deep free agent class in 2014. You don't mortgage your future for short-term gain. The Wizards will miss Okafor's physical presence on the defensive end, but they still have the talent and versatility to go small and do well. 

What's the timetable on a C4 spine injury? It can be treated with therapy and in most cases doesn't require surgery. It can fully heal in three months for 90% of patients. By that calculation, Okafor could miss just the first month-and a-half of the season and be back. Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis had a similar injury before his season began in March, according to CSN Baltimore's Rich Dubroff. His herniation was C4-C5. He has played in 148 of 150 games going into Wednesday. 

Who will start at center? Ultimately, training camp that starts Sept. 28 will determine that. But the logical choice appears to be to move over Nene, a 7-footer who starts at power forward. But coach Randy Wittman told me in a 1-on-1 interview two weeks ago that he believes Seraphin will show the most progress  after his off-season regimen, which included bypassing his French national team and doing individual work at Verizon Center. Vesely played a lot at center in Las Vegas summer league and with his Czech national team at Euroball. He's certainly tall and long enough at 6-11. Harrington played in the middle with the Denver Nuggets when they went small. Like Seraphin he's only 6-9 but has the strength to hold his ground.