Hawks' front-line depth takes another hit with Okongwu out for 'foreseeable future'

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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks are preparing to be without center Onyeka Okongwu for an indefinite period of time, leaving the team with serious front-line depth issues as it returns from the All-Star break.

Coach Quin Snyder said following Thursday's practice Okongwu, who missed the final game before the break with a sprained left toe, “is not going to be available for the foreseeable future.”

Snyder's announcement was a surprise following initial expectations Okongwu would miss a week to 10 days.

The loss of Okongwu, who has shared playing time with starting center Clint Capela, comes as Capela has missed the past six games with a left adductor strain.

Capela could return for Friday night's game against Toronto but is not expected to immediately be ready to assume his normal share of minutes.

Okongwu's injury places more emphasis on backup Bruno Fernando, who already was playing more minutes as Snyder looked for ways to replace Capela.

“So Bruno is someone who has had to step up in Clint’s absence,” Snyder said. “We’ll get Clint back but he’ll be in a situation where it’s been a few weeks since he has played and I’m sure he will be on some kind of minutes restriction. Those are things we just need to continue to work through.”

Okongwu, 23, was a 2020 first-round draft pick. His averages of 10.2 points and 25.8 minutes this season are career highs. He also is averaging 7.0 rebounds in 53 games, including eight starts.

Snyder said losing Okongwu is “tough” because the fourth-year center has shown progress this season.

“Even before Clint went out you could just see his progress,” Snyder said. “He’s getting better in a lot of areas and some of the things he does and does well gives us another dimension on both ends of the floor.”

The Hawks (24-31) are 10th in the Eastern Conference and would fall out of the last spot in the play-in tournament if they fall below 11th-place Brooklyn.


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