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Onyeka Okongwu undergoes surgery to repair torn right shoulder labrum

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Very unfortunate news.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Atlanta Hawks, 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Set Number: X163677 TK1

Just before midnight Wednesday evening, word broke from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu has underwent surgery to repair a torn right shoulder labrum, with appropriately six months recovery time.

The Hawks confirmed the report shortly after ESPN broke the news.

The injury comes as a rather big surprise, as at exit interviews a couple of weeks ago both Hawks GM Travis Schlenk and Okongwu himself said the plan was for him to go to Las Vegas and compete at Summer League in August. Wojnarowski reports “a lingering injury beginning in May resulted in the need for the procedure.”

Okongwu battled a foot injury heading into his rookie season, and will now obviously again not get a Summer League experience and miss the beginning of the regular season in 2020-21. The rookie flashed signs of defensive brilliance and a soft touch offensively in limited postseason minutes for the Hawks, going toe to toe with the likes of NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for stretches.

The Hawks now head into free agency potentially looking at depth at the center position, with Okongwu likely having been set to be Clint Capela’s primary backup. Obviously if Atlanta retains John Collins it won’t be near as difficult to fill out those center minutes, though it remains to be seen what happens on that front.

Six months from now puts around late January as the initial expected return date, with the regular season slated to begin in late October. This is obviously an unfortunate setback for the 2020 No. 6 overall pick, but if rehab goes smoothly he should be able to salvage the majority of his sophomore season and most importantly be back for another potential postseason run.

Stay tuned.