Apparently just playing two games in five weeks isn't enough to keep you in NBA game shape, as Jahlil Okafor has learned now that he's been traded to a team (the Nets) who will actually let him get off the bench.
Okafor made his Brooklyn debut on Friday night during a 33-point beatdown loss at the hands of the Raptors, though it sounds like he'll have to wait awhile until he gets an opportunity for appearance No. 2. This is because Okafor's conditioning was in noticeably short supply as he ran up and down the court against Toronto. And, as a result, he said he and coach Kenny Atkinson came to a mutual decision to keep him off the floor until that improves.
"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 to The New York Post. "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."
The 22-year-old former third overall pick also appeared to call out his former team, the 76ers, for an apparent lack of assistance in keeping him in game shape. "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," he said.
"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."
Okafor last played a game for the Sixers on November 7 before his debut appearance with Brooklyn four days ago. While the ex-Blue Devil/ACC Player of the Year once appeared to very much be a centerpiece of "the process," Philly, having waited a while, decided not to pick up Okafor for the fourth-year of his rookie contract.
Okafor had been stuck on the bench due to Philadelphia's inability to trade him or find him minutes, and Brooklyn finally agreed to acquire him (along with Nik Stauskas and a 2019 2nd-round pick) for Trevor Booker on December 7.