It has been 3 1/2 seasons, a total of 306 consecutive regular-season games, since New Orleans Hornets center Emeka Okafor has not played in an NBA contest.

But he'll miss tonight's home game against the Washington Wizards with a left oblique strain, the team announced Monday night.

Okafor left Sunday night's 104-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns with 1:59 remaining in the first half after he strained a left hip muscle on a spin move to the basket. Bending over in pain, he walked off the court even before the Hornets could make a substitution.

He went to the dressing room and did not play the rest of the night, though he did return to the Hornets' bench late in the second half.

His replacement for tonight's game was not announced, but it's likely the Hornets will start Jason Smith, with David Andersen and D.J. Mbenga in reserve. The Hornets did not practice Monday.

The Hornets are in the middle of a difficult stretch, having lost two consecutive games after a season-best 10-game winning streak. The Wizards are on tap tonight followed by a trip to Oklahoma City to meet the Thunder on Wednesday and a huge game at the New Orleans Arena on Saturday night against the two-time defending champion Lakers.

Okafor's presence against the Lakers' imposing front line of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom would seem almost imperative.

But try as he might, he could not return against the Suns.

"I just strained a muscle; just went to the basket and strained a muscle," Okafor said. "I just twisted, felt a strain and that was that. We'll see. It's fresh right now, I'll be able to tell more later."

Okafor had been a force for the Hornets up until then. New Orleans was up by three points against the Suns when Okafor was hurt. Up to that point, he had seven rebounds, all on the offensive end, and scored 10 points.