Jahlil Okafor scored 10 points and pulled down four rebounds in 22 minutes of action in his debut with the Nets on Dec. 15 against the Raptors. Okafor joined the Nets from the Sixers as Philadelphia finally (and mercifully) put an end to his tenure with the organization that had never panned out.
In Philadelphia, Okafor appeared in two games for a total of 25 minutes (22 of which came in his first appearance) and was on the inactive list for the final six games he was with the Sixers as he pushed to get out of town. In that time off the court, Okafor was not really working with the team and this led him to fall out of game shape, as he and the Nets learned in his first game.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters Okafor wouldn’t play again until he was in better shape, explaining that it didn’t come as a shock to him a player who hadn’t played and was virtually ostracized at his old team wouldn’t be ready to go, via the New York Post.
“No, it’s to be expected. He just hasn’t played,” Atkinson said. “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.”
Okafor knows he’s out of shape as well, saying he was doing the team a “disservice” by trying to play right now and that it was a collaborative decision for him to sit out until he’s ready. The young center hopes that he isn’t too far away and is mostly looking forward to getting to workout with a team staff again. As he explained, he was basically left alone in Philadelphia by the coaching and training staff and had to go it alone with his personal trainer, per 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,” Okafor said. “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.”
If nothing else, Okafor’s comments show how wide the divide had grown between himself and the Sixers over the past year. It’s not exactly a surprise, but it is a fairly unique situation for a player to be isolated from the team almost completely and go it alone. Now, we don’t know the behind the scenes dynamics and whether Okafor was unwilling to work with the Sixers’ staff after his final falling out with the front office, but it does explain a lot.
Okafor won’t put a timetable on his return, but considering how much he was pining for a chance to go somewhere and play while in Philly, hopefully he commits to getting right and will be on the court for the Nets in the relatively near future.