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Report: Former No. 2 pick Emeka Okafor to sign 10-day contract with Pelicans

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Emeka Okafor, the former No. 2 pick and 2005 Rookie of the Year who has been out of the NBA since 2013, was serious enough about an NBA comeback that he has played 26 games this season for the Delaware 76ers, the G-League affiliate of Philadelphia. He averaged 6.8 points on 61.2 percent shooting and 8 rebounds a game in 20 minutes a night, with a PER of 18.6.

That has been enough to get him a chance.

The New Orleans Pelicans, desperate for help at center since the DeMarcus Cousins injury (and with Alexis Ajinca out with knee surgery), are going to give Okafor a chance with a 10-day contract, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After suffering career-threatening back issues, former No. 2 overall pick Emeka Okafor is planning to sign a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Okafor, 35, last played for the Washington Wizards in 2013, when he suffered a herniated disk injury and underwent multiple years of rehabilitation.

Right now the Pelicans are playing Anthony Davis at center, and while he dropped 43 on the Thunder in a key Pelicans’ win Friday night, he doesn’t want to deal with the nightly physical grind of playing that position. New Orleans tried to land Greg Monroe but he took the cash from a bigger deal in Boston. There are expected to be some centers bought out after the trade deadline that the Pelicans can then grab.

In the interim, Okafor will get his shot.

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Pelicans release veteran forward Josh Smith

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The Pelicans were desperate. They had lost Solomon Hill, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca, Rajon Rondo and Frank Jackson to injury. The league granted New Orleans a hardship waiver to add another body to the roster, and needing help mostly up front the Pelicans signed Josh Smith.

But the plan was never to keep him long term, and on Friday Smith was let go after just 14 days with the team, reported Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Smith, 31, played just 12 minutes total across three games in garbage time for New Orleans (shooting 1-of-4). He was hoping to prove to teams that he still has something left in the tank and he would land another gig. I’m not sure he did that, but other teams may call coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps and ask as injuries eventually pile up for other teams.

 

Josh Smith cleared, signed with Pelicans today

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Josh Smith couldn’t find an NBA contract and played last season in China. As of today, he’s back in the Association.

The Pelicans, desperate for frontcourt help due to injuries to Solomon Hill, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca — not to mention guards Rajon Rondo and Frank Jackson) — signed Smith today with the hardship waiver they were granted by the league. Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the news.

Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated had more details.

The NBA veteran, who played in China last season, expects to be available to play against Cleveland tonight. “This is an opportunity I’ve been praying for. I’m elated. I really appreciate the Pelicans for giving me a second chance at something I love to do,” Smith told The Undefeated.

The Pelicans ultimately confirmed it.

This is a non-guaranteed deal, the Pelicans are bumping up against the luxury tax so they are not going to spend more than they need to.

Smith and Rajon Rondo were high school teammates who have always wanted to play together in the NBA. Now they finally may, if Rondo can get healthy.

Smith, 31, is really more of a four in today’s NBA. He thinks he has a quality jumper, but his last NBA season (split between the Clippers and Rockets) he shot just 27.1 percent from three (and took more than half his shots from beyond the arc). He’s not quick enough anymore to guard the three in the NBA.

But the Pelicans are desperate for help, so they are giving the veteran another chance.

Pelicans trying to keep up with all the problems they’ve created for themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The entire operation could have cratered if Jrue Holiday left in free agency, as the Pelicans would have had only moderate cap space to replace him.

That didn’t happen.

Otherwise…

Years of roster mismanagement caught up to New Orleans, which had its meager wing depth eviscerated when Solomon Hill suffered a long-term injury. Complicating matters, the Pelicans had already hard-capped themselves by signing Rajon Rondo and Darius Miller to a combined salary above the taxpayer mid-level exception. Holiday used his leverage to get a massive contract – worth up to $150 million over five years – that pushed New Orleans close to that hard cap.

Rondo might be a decent value as a $3.3 million backup point guard. But his ego complicates the situation, and the Pelicans will start him at point guard – pushing Holiday to shooting guard, where the team’s third-best player will make less of an impact.

Miller washed out of the NBA two years ago after three seasons in New Orleans. The former second-rounder went overseas and then drew a salary above the minimum. I’m curious to see what the Pelicans see in him now.

In a pinch on the wing – where Hill, best at power forward, was already playing out of position – New Orleans sent a second-rounder and cash to the Bulls to dump Quincy Pondexter. Presumably, the injury problems that have kept Pondexter from playing the last two seasons meant he couldn’t help the Pelicans on the wing this season. Otherwise, this deal was a farce. But it allowed the Pelicans to sign Tony Allen and presumably one other player. Re-signing Dante Cunningham would help, but even he is better at power forward than small forward.

Allen is still a strong defender at age 35, but he’s a poor shooter. Rondo generally has been, too.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have to be comfortable from deep for this team to have adequate spacing. The situation behind those two stars is woeful.

New Orleans spent a lot of time picking around the edges at point guard, though. In addition to re-signing Holiday and signing Rondo, the Pelicans traded effective backup point guard Tim Frazier (on a reasonable $2 million salary) to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick. Then, New Orleans essentially dealt the Nos. 40 and 52 picks and $800,000 to move up to No. 31 for injured point guard Frank Jackson, who’s already hurt again. The Pelicans also signed Ian Clark (defends point guards, handles the ball and distributes like a shooting guard). Combo guard E'Twaun Moore returns, too.

Between Davis, Cousins, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans is paying $57,396,659 this season to players most effective at center.

Meanwhile, small forward is a wasteland.

This is not the team I’d want to send into battle during Cousins’ contract year. Lose him, and how will that color Davis’ long-term view of the franchise?

The Pelicans keep bandaging major wounds, and it’s already catching up to them. The difficult situation entering the offseason must be taken into account.

They started the summer in a jam. Then, they got jammed.

Offseason grade: C-