Okafor Will Miss Both Summer Leagues; First Game Tonight

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The first game for the Charlotte Bobcats is tonight, but Olympian Emeka Okafor will not play. Okafor will not participate in either of the two Charlotte summer leagues as he is preparing to represent his country for once in his life. He will represent his team for the rest of his life. The Bobcats play their first game against outside competition tonight in Minnesota as they face the Toronto Raptors summer league at 6 p.m. EDT.

With Okafor's absence, Gerald Wallace, Jason Kapono, Tamar Slay, local boy Todd Fuller, and the "other" draft pick Bernard Robinson headline the summer league roster.

Charlotte GM/coach Bernie Bickerstaff will not be coaching the summer league teams, letting his assistants instead get a chance to run the team for a while. Because players on guaranteed contracts are not likely to be waived, then if second-round draft pick Bernard Robinson makes the cut, there will be only three roster spots available, and those are likely to be injury-list spots.

That is, of course, unless Bickerstaff makes a move for a free agent. Word is the Bobcats have a need for point guards, and there are plenty in this year's free agent crop to pick from.

The Bobcats will participate in the inaugural Minnesota Summer League July 6-10 at the Target Center, along with the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, host Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors, with the first game being against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, July 6th at 6:00 p.m. EDT/5:00 p.m. CDT. The remainder of their MSL schedule is as follows:

*Tuesday, July 6th - Toronto - 6:00 p.m. EDT
*Wednesday, July 7th - Minnesota - 8:00 p.m. EDT
*Thursday, July 8th - Milwaukee - 6:00 p.m. EDT
*Friday, July 9th - Philadelphia - Noon EDT
*Saturday, July 10th - Detroit - Noon EDT 

The Bobcats will also participate in the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City, Utah from July 16-24. Their first game will be versus the Atlanta Hawks, Friday July 16th at 4:00 p.m. EDT/2:00 p.m. MDT. Other teams participating in the RMR include the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Seattle Sonics, and host Utah Jazz. The remainder of their RMR schedule is as follows:

*Friday, July 16th - Atlanta - 4:00 p.m. EDT
*Saturday, July 17th - San Antonio - 4:00 p.m. EDT
*Sunday, July 18th - Seattle - 8:00 p.m. EDT
*Monday, July 19th - Bye
*Tuesday, July 20th - Indiana - 8:00 p.m. EDT
*Wednesday, July 21st - Dallas - 10:00 p.m. EDT
*Thursday, July 22nd - Chicago - 8:00 p.m. EDT
*Friday, July 23rd - Utah - 10:00 p.m. EDT
*Saturday, July 24th - Bye

Rick Bonnell ofThe Charlotte Observerwrites: The Bobcats drafted some restricted free agents -- Jeff Trepagnier and J.R. Bremer, for instance -- they don't intend to sign. Bickerstaff acknowledged Monday he did that as favors for those players' agents, since the expansion draft made them unrestricted. It's always handy when a[n] agent owes a general manager a favor.

The summer league roster for the Bobcats is as follows:

No., Player Height Pos. College
18 Corey Benjamin 6-6 G Oregon State
16 Keith Carter 6-2 G Mississippi
28 Kaniel Dickens 6-8 F Idaho
52 Todd Fuller 6-11 C N.C. State
10 Patrick Johnson 5-10 G Ball State
54 Arthur Johnson 6-9 C Missouri
22 Danny Johnson 6-3 G College of Charleston
24 Jason Kapono 6-8 F UCLA
14 William Parker 6-3 G Fordham
21 Bernard Robinson 6-6 G/F Michigan
12 Jeryl Sasser 6-6 G Southern Methodist
8 Tamar Slay 6-8 F Marshall
3 Gerald Wallace 6-7 F Alabama
1 Loren Woods 7-2 C Arizona


Rick Bonnell ofThe Charlotte Observer writes: Mike Krzyzewski won't be in the NBA next season, but 12 to 15 new Charlotte Bobcats will. This week could go a ways in determining who those players are. The Bobcats will play five games in Minneapolis this week, in the first of two summer leagues for the expansion team. "This is a different test -- they toss the ball for real," said coach/general manager Bernie Bickerstaff. "We'll look for different lineups, different rotations, who plays well together. We'll experiment. The only thing we'll really (judge) is who plays hard -- that has to be the one consistency." Bickerstaff has said that anyone under guaranteed contract would likely stick, so eight roster spots are seemingly settled: Jason Kapono, Gerald Wallace, Theron Smith, Jahidi White, Brandon Hunter, Primoz Brezec, Jamal Sampson and Predrag Drobnjak. Add draft picks Emeka Okafor and Bernard Robinson to that list and it reaches 10. Free agent Tamar Slay -- a Bickerstaff favorite from way back -- would make 11, and the Bobcats are sure to sign at least one free-agent point guard, possibly the Spurs' Jason Hart.So in actuality, the summer-league players are competing for as many as three roster spots, and would likely be stashed on the injured list next season.

Rick Bozich ofThe Courier Journal writes: When the Magic left him unprotected in the expansion draft for the Charlotte Bobcats last month, it was apparent Gaines was as welcome in Orlando as freezing rain.Enter Houston. The Rockets asked that he be included in a seven-player trade that was designed to send Tracy McGrady, Gaines and two more Magic players to Houston for Steve Francis and two others. Houston sees Gaines, who is 6 feet 6, as a guy who can play several positions and defend — a must with Van Gundy.