Hornets confident Chandler will pass physical

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

It’s only been 5 ½ months since Tyson Chandler’s trade to Oklahoma City was rescinded by the Thunder, just prior to the February trade deadline. Though Chandler returned that month from injury, the 7-foot-1 center later missed a large chunk of the regular season, then appeared far from 100 percent health-wise during the 2009 first-round playoff series vs. Denver. As a result, it’s understandable that there may be concern that history could potentially repeat itself, when Chandler is examined by Charlotte’s medical staff later this week.

However, when asked if he was uneasy about a repeated failed physical, New Orleans GM Jeff Bower said today that the Hornets are “very comfortable with his (health) status. Charlotte has looked at all of that information as well, and everything we’re aware of. We’re all quite confident in the situation.”

Bower said Chandler and Okafor both have seven days to report to their new teams, then one additional day to undergo and pass their physicals. Okafor is expected to arrive in New Orleans next week and participate in a press conference officially introducing him as a new Hornet.

Here are a few other noteworthy points from Bower’s session with the media today at the Alario Center. You can listen to the entire interview by visiting Hornets.com’s audio section:

• Bower hinted that more additions to the roster are forthcoming. Right now, New Orleans has 13 players under contract but has traditionally carried at least 14, meaning a minimum of one more transaction will occur this summer. “We’ll continue to work the roster,” he said. When asked about the team’s remaining need to improve its frontcourt depth, Bower responded, “We have more work to do. We’re getting close to addressing that.”

• Bower said the Hornets had been talking to the Bobcats about a potential trade for “awhile.” He did not specify, but it appears to have been at least a few weeks since talks began.

• Asked whether the trade to add Okafor – who signed a lucrative and lengthy contract extension with the Bobcats in July 2008 – indicates that the Hornets are willing to exceed the luxury-tax threshold in order to compete in the Western Conference, Bower said “We’re willing to pay the price to do that... Our overriding objective is to do that. We think (the Okafor trade) is a step forward to do that. It gives us another element for our frontline. It is a big step for us."

Hornets acquire Okafor in trade for Chandler

The Hornets have officially announced that they've acquired Bobcats frontcourt player Emeka Okafor, in exchange for center Tyson Chandler. We will have much more on this major trade in the coming days, including an expected New Orleans press conference with the 6-foot-10, 255-pound Okafor next week.

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower is expected to speak to the media at 3 p.m. today at the Alario Center, the team’s practice facility.

One of the coincidental aspects of this trade is that both players in the deal were No. 2 overall picks in the NBA Draft, three years apart. Chandler was taken second by the Chicago Bulls in the ill-fated 2001 draft, behind top choice Kwame Brown. Okafor was the Bobcats’ No. 2 overall pick in 2004, taken one spot after Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

Although Chandler has three more years of experience in the NBA than Okafor, they are almost exactly the same age. Okafor’s birthday of Sept. 28, 1982, makes him a mere four days older than Chandler. However, since Okafor opted to play three years at the University of Connecticut – Chandler entered the league directly from high school – the Houston native has played in 207 fewer career NBA games.

Okafor is very familiar with at least one of his new teammates, having played at UConn with Hilton Armstrong for two seasons. The 2003-04 Huskies won the national championship, with Okafor earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four.

Okafor averaged 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds a game for the Bobcats last season, ranking fifth and 12th in the NBA, respectively, in those categories. As was the case with Chandler, as a No. 2 overall pick Okafor was expected to become a star performer in the NBA, but his good-but-not-great offensive production has prevented him from ascending to that status.

ESPN.com writer John Hollinger’s description of Okafor prior to the 2008-09 season provides an accurate picture that many observers around the league would concur with: “He's not going to be a big star. What Okafor is, however, is a top-10 center who defends, rebounds and converts close-range shots… he'll probably never be more than a third option at the offensive end, but if the Bobcats make a charge for a playoff spot, Okafor may finally get some recognition for his impressive defense and rebounding.”

One other note on Okafor: though he missed games early in his career to injury, he played all 82 games in back-to-back seasons for Charlotte, a rarity in the NBA. Only 10 players in the league have accomplished that feat in 2007-08 and 2008-09 (the others are Tayshaun Prince, Luis Scola, Jarrett Jack, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Richard Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Samuel Dalembert and Andre Miller).