The former University of Connecticut big man and number-two pick has decided he's ready to return to the game after several years away due to a herniated disc in his neck. Okafor - a distant relative of Jahlil Okafor - has spent much of the past year training to get into game shape, and feels he has something worthwhile to offer on the court. Per an interview with his former college coach, Jim Calhoun (per ESPN's Jackie McMullen):
"He's in great shape ... He had offers last season from teams for $6-7 million to play just a portion of the season, but you have to know Emeka. He's only coming back when he feels the time is right. ... He's not going to make a decision based on money. He doesn't need it. This is a kid who graduated with a 3.9 GPA. He wants to play a couple more years then go to business school at Harvard. He's only going to play for a contending team."
A contending team, you say? Money is not the important part? Ties to the area? Sign me up, if there's a roster spot available. Still, he's been away from the game for some time now; he hasn't played since the 2012-13 season, and we just saw how that worked out for Larry Sanders. And back injuries, even ones in your neck, can return suddenly to hobble big men, but if he's OK with something between the Bi-Annual exception (about $3.3 million) to the veteran minimum, there'd be no real risk assuming we have space to put him on the floor. He'd be slotting into deep rotation to rotation minutes until he demonstrated the time off and the years have not hampered his production, an event which might never come if the Cleveland Cavaliers' Sanders recent experiment is anything like what we might expect.
Still, Emeka was putting up 8.8 boards, 9.7 points and a block per game in the last year he played in the league at just 24 minutes per outing. Even a fraction of that would be a boost for Boston, with the potential to return to something like what he was producing before his injury forced him off the court being on the table. It's a gamble to be sure, but with Boston's cap outlook being as constrained as it may be should they land the free agent they are after, and a dearth of competent bigs likely coming back next season, it's probably an idea Danny Ainge should be exploring, nonetheless.