The Sixers big man became the focus of a viral video showing off his “defense” and poor effort the other night against Miami.
The next day, Okafor tried to defend himself, as told to CSNPhilly.com. You can see the video of his comments above, but his main argument was that he does care about defense, he was just tired.
“I know about the clip that everybody’s been talking about,” Okafor said after shootaround Friday. “The persona of me not caring defensively is false. I took it upon myself to talk to our defensive coach Lloyd Pierce to ask about that individual clip. He said that I did the defensive concepts and that was to retreat, retreat, retreat.
“And I understand visually it looks bad. I was fatigued. I played the entire first quarter and I was tired. I’m not making excuses. … I did do what I was supposed to do and that’s retreat. We had an amazing roller in Hassan Whiteside so my job was to not let [Dragic or Whiteside] behind me. Of course [McGruder] runs in to get the offensive rebound and I’m [accountable] for that, too. That’s my fault, supposedly. That’s what everyone’s trying to make it out to be. The coaches are happy with the way I’ve been improving and every day I continue to work.”
There’s a difference between retreating to protect the rim and passivity. Fatigue very likely played a factor, and this video clip does make him look especially bad, but Okafor is simply not a good defender. That’s one of the reasons the trade market for him has been so limited.
That he cares and is putting in work with the coaches on his defense is a positive sign. There’s just a long way to go.