Contrary to what most observers believed would be the case, Jahlil Okafor has only played 23 minutes in a Brooklyn Nets uniform. While most players are approaching their midseason form, Okafor is just trying to get into shape. According to Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, Okafor isn’t quite fit enough to contribute right away.
Via New York Post:
There’s just a difference between game conditioning — NBA conditioning — for [most people] he’s probably in better shape, but it’s a whole other level. It doesn’t surprise me at all. The fact that he’s a bigger guy, that’s part of it, too. It’s more difficult for them.
We need to put him in a situation to succeed and a position to help us. I told him you’re not going to be alone. It’s not like we’re going to put you on some mountain and you’re going to be running. We’re going to do this together.
Atkinson makes a salient point. Okafor played only 23 minutes in his final 23 games as a Philadelphia 76er and was DNP’d for 21 of those contests. Although, conditioning issues arose for Okafor during his freshman season at Duke, he also went vegan and lost 20 pounds in the off-season. Brooklyn is third in pace and Philadelphia is fourth and Okafor has possessed a clean bill of health since the off-season so the pace isn’t a dramatic shift.
Okafor had a differing perspective on the reasons for his conditioning deficit and used the opportunity to take another jab at the Philadelphia 76ers.
“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.”
He’d obviously been holding that one in for a while. Okafor and the Sixers are learning that breakups are hard. It had to be disheartening for Okafor to watch the Sixers scour the planet seeking out cutting edge treatments for Joel Embiid’s foot while he be was given up on after his fairly promising rookie season.
Meanwhile, they look happy with Embiid turning into a superstar and he’s still a pine star. Sixers coach Brett Brown took the high road in response.
This was Brett Brown’s response pre-game to Jahlil Okafor’s comments to New York reporters about being “with the actual NBA coaching staff” in Brooklyn: pic.twitter.com/sbdNdvF3IR
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) December 19, 2017
Okafor’s Philadelphia captivity was a tough situation for both sides. After losing over 150 games during his first three seasons, Brown had to give minutes to the guys who could win games for him in the present and future around. Okafor is still salty about never being in that picture. Hopefully this is the last time Okafor lashes out like this. Everyone has their limit and Brown may not be so diplomatic next time Okafor takes aim at his old team. Meanwhile, Okafor should spend less time lamenting past (vegan) beefs and focusing on bettering his future.
– – – – – – –