New Orleans Hornets center Emeka Okafor, in street clothes during a regular-season NBA game for the first time in 3 1/2 years, admitted he had found the circumstance to be somewhat disconcerting.

"It's all quite new, to be honest," said Okafor, who is expected to miss the next one to three weeks with a strained left oblique muscle.

Okafor had played 306 consecutive games before missing Tuesday night's game at the New Orleans Arena against the Washington Wizards. During that time, Okafor has played, he said, with a variety of ailments he deemed in the moments after sustaining the injury Sunday far more severe than his muscle pull.

"We're still trying to figure out what the best course of action is," he said regarding the prescribed treatment, and that this could occur two weeks before the All-Star break, which will encompass one of the weeks of his inactivity. "If an injury were to occur, this is the time for it to happen. I'll have a week or so where we won't be playing, so it will be a week less games I could miss."

Okafor strained the oblique with 1:59 to go in Sunday night's 104-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns, doubled over in pain, left the court and did not return.

Hornets Coach Monty Williams started Jason Smith at center against the Wizards and brought Aaron Gray in first off the bench. Smith scored 10 points in his first nine minutes, quickly nearly matching Okafor's 11.1 average. Smith had a career-high 15 on 7-of-7 shooting in the first half, in only 13 minutes.

But the reserve group was hard-pressed to compensate for Okafor's 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

"Obviously, it's a big hit to our team, but I think we have guys who'll come in and step it up, and we have to, to continue playing the way we are," said Smith. "You just have to go in there and do the best you can. He has been the anchor for our team on defense, and he has done a great job. You have to go in with the best mindset and hopefully get the job done like he did."

Williams said losing Okafor is a big blow.