Jahlil Okafor has been a member of the Brooklyn Nets for nearly a month but, during that stint with his new squad, the former No. 3 overall pick has appeared in only one game. Okafor notched 23 minutes in a blowout loss to the Raptors on Dec. 15, and after that contest, word emerged that the former Sixers big man needed to work on his conditioning. This meant Okafor wouldn’t be joining Brooklyn’s full-fledged rotation until that problem was addressed.
On Monday, though, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily that Okafor’s de facto hiatus is likely coming to an end as soon as Wednesday against the Wolves.
“He’s close,” Atkinson said. “I’d expect to see him against Minnesota. I think we’ll start to get him some minutes. He’s been doing a phenomenal job getting ready physically with our assistant coaches learning what we’re doing. Collectively we feel like he’s ready to get some minutes.”
It is encouraging on a number of levels that Okafor would be nearing the condition needed to actually play regular minutes and it is important to note that Brooklyn’s coaching staff seemed to understand why the center needed more work. Atkinson went on to note that the team would “build him up” on a game-to-game basis but the play is to “hopefully build him up to bigger minutes.
Obviously, there are question marks with Okafor’s game that go beyond conditioning, from his well-chronicled defensive issues to an offensive game that isn’t a perfect modern fit. Still, it will be interesting to see him in a new situation and the Nets have done a strong job in unearthing previously hidden talents in other players during the Atkinson era.