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Okafor recalls rookie season in Charlotte

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Okafor recalls rookie season in Charlotte

Emeka Okafor knows what it’s like to play for a bad team. It’s how his NBA career started and on Tuesday night he’ll be reminded of that when he and the Wizards visit the Charlotte Bobcats.

Okafor was taken by the expansion Bobcats with the second pick of the 2004 NBA draft, behind only Dwight Howard, and realized pretty quickly it would be a long rookie season.

“It was completely different; it was a fledgling organization,” Okafor recalled Monday before catching a team flight to Charlotte, where the Wizards will face the Bobcats Tuesday night.

“Everybody was brand new. It was an expansion draft, so essentially a team full of people that nobody else wanted. You’re trying to break into a new market. The whole dynamic was just different. We came in and the system is set up for you to lose.”

And the Bobcats did just that, losing eight of their first nine games and finishing next-to-last in the Eastern Conference with an 18-64 record.

Okafor was the silver lining in that season, leading all NBA rookies in points [15.1], rebounds [10.9] and minutes played [35.6] and won the Rookie of the Year honors.

Now 30 years old and in his ninth NBA season, Okafor says the vibe he’s getting in his first month with the Wizards is very different than what he felt in his first year in Charlotte, even though the Wizards are off to an 0-5 start.

“With Charlotte, it was a different type of experience, but one thing I learned there is patience,” Okafor said. “If you work, good things will happen.”

That is the approach Okafor is trying to take with himself and the Wizards this season. After averaging just 5 points, 5 rebounds and 17.6 minutes in his first three games with the Wizards, Okafor has averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds in 34 minutes in his last two games.

“He’s been really good these last two games,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “He’s been solid, an anchor to our defense.”

Okafor had a season-high 17 points in the Wizards’ 89-85 loss to the Pacers Saturday night while holding Indiana center Roy Hibbert to 7 points.

“That’s the best we’ve had somebody guard Hibbert since I’ve been here,” Wittman said. “That’s kind of what we saw when we made the trade [for Okafor]. Obviously, Nene is not part of this yet. But we have the beef to play teams like Indiana, the Dwight Howards, and the [Andrew] Bynums that we’ve never had in the past.”

Okafor says he was neither frustrated nor surprised by his slow start with the Wizards. With four of the team’s five starters not even on the Wizards’ roster last season, Okafor said he expected an adjustment period.

“Everybody is still trying to figure out exactly where we as individuals can be most effective,” he said, “and then as a team knowing where your teammates are going to be as well.”

With John Wall and Nene expected to be sidelined at least until the end of November, the Wizards are trying to build a defensive foundation early in the season. Okafor points out that despite their 0-5 start, that foundation is being laid, evidenced by the team’s ability to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter of every game.

“It’s tough [being 0-5], but I’d much rather lose by three than 30,” Okafor said. “When you can leave and know that you’re one or two or three plays away from a win, in your mind it’s not as big of an adjustment as getting blown out every night. You just have to tweak the right things, versus a complete overhaul.”

The Wizards’ next chance for their first win comes against a team that is 1-3 to start the season and has lost five straight to the Wizards.

“You can’t ever go into a game thinking that,” Okafor said, “because every team is good and every team plays differently every night. You can’t take anybody lightly.”
 

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2018 NBA Draft: A list of Green Room attendees

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USA Today Sports

2018 NBA Draft: A list of Green Room attendees

The NBA officially announced a list of 20 players invited to the Green Room at the 2018 NBA Draft. Provided that all attend, here's a list of who'll be there.

  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Mikal Bridges, Villanova
  • Marvin Bagley III, Duke
  • Mohamed Bamba, Texas
  • Collin Sexton, Alabama
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
  • Lonnie Walker IV, Miami
  • Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
  • Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
  • Aaron Holiday, UCLA
  • Deandre Ayton, Arizona
  • Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
  • Luka Doncic, Slovenia
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
  • Kevin Knox, Kentucky
  • Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
  • Robert Williams, Texas A&M
  • Trae Young, Oklahoma
  • Chandler Hutchison, Boise State
  • Jerome Robinson, Boston College

There are two players each invited from Villanova, Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky.

The 2018 NBA Draft will be Thursday, June 21 at 7 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It will be broadcast on ESPN and streamed live on WatchESPN. The Wizards have Nos. 15 and 44 picks.

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The 2018 NBA Doomsday Mock Draft: A comical look at every team's worst-case scenario

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USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NBA Doomsday Mock Draft: A comical look at every team's worst-case scenario

The 2018 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 21 and once again provides a glimmer of hope for even the most downtrodden franchises.

The NBA Draft is where teams can prepare for the future; where teams can rebuild and reload.

But the NBA Draft is often a crapshoot. Teams waffle on taking the best fit versus the best available player. Teams often panic and rest on laurels of draft years past. Fans like to build draft stereotypes for individual franchises, and while a lot of that is stupid Internet conjecture, it's fun to talk about and is often some actual truth to it.

So what follows is a look at the Doomsday Mock Draft. What your favorite team is likely to do if all else fails, which it often does.

1. Phoenix Suns: A franchise center who spends his first contract working with the Suns' medical staff more than his teammates.

2. Sacramento Kings: Someone who won't be a member of the Kings by the time 2022 rolls around.

3. Atlanta Hawks: Someone that will make Dennis Schroder unhappy.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: A Mike Conley Jr. repair kit.

5. Dallas Mavericks: Not the heir apparent to Dirk Nowitzki.

6. Orlando Magic: A reach that won't pan out.

7. Chicago Bulls: Someone from Iowa State, probably.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers: ANYONE YOU WANT LEBRON JUST PLEASE DON'T LEAVE US AGAIN!!

9. New York Knicks: /inserts .GIF of Spike Lee looking disappointed/

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Another big man because HINKIE 4 LYFE.

11. Charlotte Hornets: A North Carolina Tar Heel.

12. Los Angeles Clippers: A playmate for the head coach's son.

13. Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan 2.0.

14. Denver Nuggets: Yet another athletic guard.

15. Washington Wizards: Nope. Not touching this one.

16. Phoenix Suns: Someone to pass Devon Booker the ball.

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Wingspan. Nothing but wingspan.

18. San Antonio Spurs: One of the Space Jam villains who conveniently falls to the Spurs (See: Leonard, Kawhi. Anderson, Kyle. Murray, Dejounte)

19. Atlanta Hawks: Someone to replace Dennis Schroder.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Someone who Tom Thibideau can play 60 minutes of a 48-minute game.

21. Utah Jazz: A real glue guy. A gym rat. A high-motor guy. Intangibles. Grit. Moxie. 

22. Chicago Bulls: A two-way player who will ultimately get punched in the face by Bobby Portis.

23. Indiana Pacers: DRAFT ANOTHER UCLA PLAYER. WE DARE YOU.

24. Portland Trail Blazers: DRAFT ANOTHER MID-MAJOR GUARD. WE DARE YOU.

25. Los Angeles Lakers: The subject of Lonzo Ball's next diss track.

26. Philadelphia 76ers: A pallet of knockoff burner phones.

27. Boston Celtics: A draft night trade for more draft picks they probably won't use.

28. Golden State Warriors: An unfairly good player.

29. Brooklyn Nets: An unfairly bad player.

30. Atlanta Hawks: We ran out of Dennis Schroder jokes.

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