Hawks’ Okongwu to miss six months after shoulder surgery

Atlanta Hawks' Onyeka Okongwu (17) reaches for a rebound against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Atlanta Hawks' Onyeka Okongwu (17) reaches for a rebound against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the team announced late Wednesday night. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, Okongwu is expected to miss six months, meaning he will be out significant time at the start of next season.

According to the Hawks, the surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

The news was first reported by ESPN and confirmed shortly after by the Hawks. In response to the report, Okongwu posted on Twitter: “Be back soon.”

The NBA returns to an 82-game season in 2021-22 beginning in late October. A six-month recovery timeframe would put Okongwu out until January.

When the season ended, there was no indication that Okongwu, 20, was injured. General manager Travis Schlenk said he expected Okongwu to participate in the Las Vegas Summer League next month.

Okongwu did injure his shoulder in a May 13th game against Orlando and was taken back to the locker room. He was listed on the team’s official injury report as questionable with right shoulder soreness for the Hawks’ next and final regular-season game against the Rockets. Okongwu played in that game and scored a game-high 21 points. There is no indication that Okongwu tore the labrum in May.

“Overall, this offseason, I just want to get better in all aspects and reflect on this year and what I can improve on,” Okongwu said the day after the Hawks’ season ended in the Eastern Conference finals, losing in six games to the Bucks earlier this month.

The Hawk drafted Okongwu out of Southern Cal last year. His rookie season was slowed by a foot injury. He appeared in 50 games and averaged 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds with a 64.4% field-goal percentage in 12.0 minutes per game. He played a significant role in the Hawks’ playoff run to the conference finals. He averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.2 minutes, with 13 blocks in 18 games.