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.
Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu – the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft – underwent surgery to repair a torn right shoulder labrum on Wednesday and will miss approximately six months, sources told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 22, 2021
The Hawks confirmed the report shortly after ESPN broke the news.
An @emoryhealthcare injury update:— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) July 22, 2021
Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery earlier tonight to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Okongwu will now enter a period of rest and rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery in approximately six months. pic.twitter.com/kaxqw4n0ld
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.