Okafor: ‘Bobcats put me in very good situation’

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Once considered a franchise cornerstone of the Charlotte Bobcats, Emeka Okafor was traded by the only NBA team he’s ever played for on July 28. When asked several times this week whether he harbors any harsh feelings toward the Bobcats about being dealt, the 6-foot-10 center simply smiled and expressed his gratitude to his former club.

“The Bobcats have been very good to me,” Okafor said. “I have no animosity toward them. I started (my NBA career) there, and they treated me well. They did what they felt was in their best interests (in the Tyson Chandler trade), and they put me in a very good situation. So there’s nothing to be upset about.”

Okafor said he anticipated that the Bobcats’ uncertain future in ownership may lead to a few moves this offseason, but he had no inkling that he would be included in one of them.

“I knew that (Charlotte owner) Bob (Johnson) was trying to sell the team, and that maybe for financial reasons, he might be trying to offer some contracts,” Okafor said, before grinning and adding, “But it’s not like they send out a memo that says, ‘You’re about to be traded.’ It’s more like you find out that you’ve been traded, and there are no discussions.

“The fact that I was traded really caught me off guard. I wasn’t even thinking about the team I was going to (initially). But then when I thought about it, I was like, ‘The Hornets? All right. Chris (Paul), Peja (Stojakovic), (David) West… alright, I can (deal with) that.”

Coincidentally, the 2009-10 NBA schedule was released on the same day Okafor held his introductory press conference in New Orleans. He probably expected to be asked about the first Bobcats-Hornets game this season, which will take place Feb. 6, and he was relatively quickly. A reporter wondered if Okafor had already marked that date on his calendar, essentially as a way to get revenge against the Bobcats or prove that they shouldn’t have traded him.

“Not really,” Okafor said about whether the Feb. 6 game in North Carolina would have added importance to him. “It’s not a date that I have circled. Again, I have no animosity toward them. They put me in a very good situation. I think the trade will work out well for both sides.”

Despite the Bobcats failing to reach the playoffs in their five years of existence, Okafor said he never considered asking to be dealt – and he did not want to be traded, either.

“I wasn’t hoping to get out,” he said. “I was in Charlotte hoping to make it to the playoffs and elevate the organization to a higher level. Now my goals are to help bring the Hornets to a higher level.

“In Charlotte, we were making steps. We were an expansion team. Our goals were a little bit different. With the Hornets, there is a different mindset. It is a more established team. They’re not necessarily focusing on (making the) playoffs, but how far can we go into the playoffs? Having that mindset, I’m looking forward to it.”