- Joined Sep 8, 2002
While the Bobcats' contract offer was attractive, it wasn't sufficient for Okafor to accept.
A source familiar with the discussions confirmed the Bobcats offered nearly $13 million a season, which would have made Okafor the highest-paid player in team history.
The source said Okafor wanted something approaching the five-year, $85 million maximum contract Dwight Howard signed with the Orlando Magic in July.
Howard and Okafor were the first and second picks respectively in the 2004 draft.
Under NBA rules, the Bobcats have to table negotiations with Okafor until he reaches restricted free agency in July. However, there are numerous opportunities for them to re-sign Okafor before he'd become an unrestricted free agent in summer 2009.
Even if Okafor reaches unrestricted free agency, the Bobcats could offer him more guaranteed years, with higher annual raises, than any other NBA team.
Bobcats vice president Bernie Bickerstaff said the team's owners are prepared to pay what it takes to retain top talent. In June, the Bobcats traded for shooting guard Jason Richardson, inheriting a contract that pays more than $11 million a season.
"All through these negotiations, Michael (Jordan, the managing partner) and Bob (Johnson, the principal owner) have conveyed they have no problem paying" what a player is worth, Bickerstaff said. "We hope they play that well. But until they reach that point, the players have to share the risk" that they'll reach their potential going forward.
Okafor is key to the Bobcats, primarily for his shot-blocking. When he was injured for a month last season, the Bobcats' defense fell apart, ending what limited chance they had of making the playoffs.
However, Okafor has yet to reach All-Star status, as Howard has in Orlando.
Bickerstaff said that while negotiations with Okafor's agent, Jeff Schwartz, didn't produce an agreement, there was nothing rancorous that would foreshadow problems.