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Wizards front court continues to take hits

Emeka Okafor Emeka Okafor is still out of action with stomach flu. (Tracey A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

The stomach virus that Emeka Okafor said he has been battling since Tuesday, and forced him to miss the Wizards’ 108-101 loss on Thursday to the New York Knicks, continues to keep the veteran big man out of action. 

Okafor didn’t practice on Friday and isn’t expected to play on Saturday in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. Coach Randy Wittman said the bug has wiped him out.

“He’s lost 12 pounds,” Wittman said. “We got him on the scale, so yeah. He’s feeling better, but still weak. He didn’t do anything today.”

The Wizards’ front line has been depleted since the preseason began, with the 6-foot-10 Okafor and power forward Trevor Booker (left hamstring) both missing the first two games. Nene has been recovering from plantar fasciitis since the Olympics ended in August.

With his options dwindling, Wittman has called on Chris Singleton to move over to power forward after starting 57 games last season at small forward, but Singleton was unable to practice on Friday after developing a sore shoulder during the loss to the Knicks. Singleton has averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds off the bench for the Wizards this preseason.
“I think Chris has done a good job for us,” Wittman said.

Booker was back in his jersey practicing with the team, but was limited and will be out against Cleveland as well. Wittman said having Booker on the floor for any amount of time after missing the past week of action “is positive.”

Wittman said the injuries and ailments have opened up more opportunity for Brian Cook, Shavlik Randolph and Earl Barron, who are all on make good contracts with the team but are needed at least until the expected rotation players return.

“It’s an opportunity for those guys to probably get opportunities this early in the preseason, that they might not have, if we had Nene and Okafor. Because those guys are new, I’d want to see those guys,” Wittman said. “Thats why I always say, you never know where your opportunities are going to come. You’ve got to be ready.”

Wittman plans to tinker some with his starting lineups moving forward but Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely will likely remain the center and power forward, respectively.

“Obviously, you cant do a whole lot with the bigs, because we dont have a lot of bigs,” he said. “Until we can get Book back and Okafor back, those guys where I can mingle a little bit.”

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