Jahlil Okafor is, understandably, bitter.
He was frustrated in Philadelphia this season — he had worked hard to get healthy, only to find he was on the outside looking in at coach Brett Brown’s rotation. The Sixers had moved on, they have their big man of the future in Joel Embiid and the forwards they wanted around him in Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and now Trevor Booker. Philly likes its current rotations. Okafor was not part of the future plan, and nobody likes to sit around and wait, especially in a contract year.
Now Okafor is in Brooklyn, trying to get his legs under him and prove he and his old-school game have a place in the NBA. Okafor needed a change of scenery, and he got it. Not surprisingly, he took a shot at Philly and the coaching staff there during an interview with the New York Post.
“A lot of the guys are in midseason form, where I feel like I’m at the start of the season because I haven’t really played. … I have to catch up to a lot of guys.
“That’s why I’m happy I’m here with the actual NBA coaching staff that’s taking care of me every day. When I was in Philly I was figuring it out on my own. I had my own trainer [Rick Lewis] that I’ve been working with since eighth grade working me out. But it’s a different level when you’re actually working with an NBA staff.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown shrugged off the comment.
What the Sixers did is what all teams do — play the guys that can help them win games and who they see as the future. Okafor wasn’t that. It’s a cold business. But part of it also was Okafor was not that good — he’s not a good defender, and he doesn’t space the floor. If you’re just going to be an old-school scoring big in today’s NBA you need to be crazy efficient (think Enes Kanter or Zach Randolph of a few years ago). Okafor was not.
Okafor looked okay in the one game he played for the Nets so far, shooting 5-of-11 (missing both threes he tried) and scoring 10 points in 23 minutes. It’s far too early and far too small a sample size to make any judgments. What matters is he is going to get a chance in Brooklyn he was never going to get in Philly.
Okafor talked about that, too, about wanting to help his team but not being there yet (which shouldn’t be a surprise, missing most of last season and the start of this one).
“I don’t know how far I am away, but I know I’m not there yet to where I can play 25, 30 minutes and help the team win,” Okafor said. “So I’m doing myself a disservice and the team if I’m out there. I’m not really contributing as much as I think I can. I don’t have a timetable, but hopefully I’m not too far away because I do want to be out there. I do want to play with my teammates.”
He’s going to get his chance this season at some point. We’ll see what he does with it.