Emeka Okafor has always understood there is a business side to professional basketball.
As negotiations on a contact extension with the Charlotte Bobcats trudged along, raising the possibility that the team's first-ever draft choice could wind up playing somewhere else, Okafor reminded himself of that.
When he agreed to a six-year, $72million contract with the Bobcats last week, he got what he wanted beyond the money.
“Things don't always end up the way you want, but, fortunately, this ended up exactly how I wanted it,” Okafor said Tuesday in his first public comments since reaching the agreement with the Bobcats.
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He said he was hopeful throughout the process that he would re-sign with the Bobcats, for whom he has averaged 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in his four seasons.
He said he never seriously considered playing elsewhere and sensed the Bobcats wanted to keep him.
“We knew we wanted to get a deal done,” general manager Rod Higgins said. “We held to the strategy that we had to get our best big man back. We all wanted Emeka back.”
While the process was playing out, Okafor was encouraged when the Bobcats hired Larry Brown to replace Sam Vincent as coach.
“You had to take notice of Larry being hired,” Okafor said. “He's a great coach. When the Bobcats hired him, it showed me they were committed to making the franchise better.”
Okafor has a history playing for Brown, if only a minor one. Okafor was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, which captured a bronze medal with Brown as coach.
Having just concluded his college career at Connecticut, Okafor didn't play many minutes, but got a first-hand look at Brown's style.
“He brings a certain dynamic and insight to the game that would make most teams better,” Okafor said.
“He's a perfect fit for us. Our team is young. We're hard working. He can give us that discipline and those little insights to take us to the next level.
“When I heard Larry Brown was going to be the new head coach, I was very excited. I thought it was a great step to try to make the team better.”
The Bobcats' 2008-09 schedule will be released today, along with the rest of the NBA schedule.