76ers

Jahlil Okafor makes clear he wants out of Philly

Jahlil Okafor makes clear he wants out of Philly

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor wants out of Philadelphia.

A day after the team declined to pick up his fourth-year player option for next season, Okafor was clear on what he would like to happen.

"It could be a buyout, it could be a trade," he said Wednesday. "I just want something to happen rather quickly."

Okafor said that after the Sixers declined his option, he told president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo he would like a buyout. The Sixers had looked to trade Okafor several times throughout his career.

"He said that he felt that if he bought me out, another team would be getting me for free," Okafor said. "But that's where we stand today because you waited so long to trade me. There's nothing else to do. I'm not playing here and at the end of the season, I'm an unrestricted free agent. So I want to get on the court and play and produce." 

Okafor said he was surprised the Sixers even reached the point where they would need to make a decision on his option. He thought he would have been moved by the Oct. 31 deadline, which was why he hadn't been riled up about being out of the rotation and appearing in only one game. So when the Sixers didn't exercise the option, he was ready to move on.

"I was fine with that," Okafor said. "Honestly, I didn't want them to pick up my option. I've been going through a lot since I've been here. So the fact that I know that at the end of the season I would at least have an opportunity to play elsewhere, that's great. Now I'm just in a position to where, how can I get on the court? That's not happening here. I want to play. I want to play."

The Sixers were in a similar situation last season when Nerlens Noel candidly spoke out about his displeasure with his playing time. The team ultimately traded Noel to the Mavericks at the deadline. Okafor, also involved in trade talks at that time, remained more tight-lipped about his uncertainty. But on Wednesday, he didn't hold back.

"I've tried to be professional," Okafor said. "I'm going to continue to be professional. But at some point, I have to defend myself and this is my career. I'm not sure he (Colangelo) cares about that. I think that's kind of evident at this point. I understand it's a business and you're going to do what's best for the organization, but as people, from a personal level, you would hope, OK, let's get Jah out of here, let him go play somewhere because I'm 21, I'm healthy, I'm trying to get on the right path in my career."

Okafor believes of the two scenarios, a buyout or a trade, a buyout is more likely given the fact the Sixers have yet to reach a deal and his value now is lower because of his contract status.

"Talking to my agent, there were definitely deals on the table," Okafor said. "Bryan just didn't deem they were fair, which I understand, I'm a No. 3 pick. But at the same time, that's what teams were offering. Me and my agent started getting the hint they weren't going to offer more so it was whether you were going to make a move on it or not, and you waited too long and now I'm here today. I'm not saying a trade isn't possible, but I just know it's going to be really difficult knowing that I'm an unrestricted free agent at this point after the season."

Okafor has never had a clearly-defined role on the Sixers. He was drafted out of Duke one year after Joel Embiid and came into a system with three starting-caliber centers. He was a starter. He was a backup. He was a DNP. He was a center. He was unsuccessfully paired with Embiid in a twin towers scenario. He was … well, that was never really straightened out.

"When I first got here, we weren't the best team," Okafor said. "It was just Nerlens and I. Joel wasn't healthy so I was on the court, I was playing, so I really didn't have any complaints. That's all I wanted to do was just play. That's why I made such drastic changes this summer, just to get healthy and where I am today. But I'm not getting that opportunity to play. When I first got here, I wasn't really tripping because I was still playing.

"This is my life. This is my career. I'm not getting the opportunity here, which is fine. The team looks great. I'm not a part of that. I want the team to do great things, but at the same time, I want to play."

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

The Sixers coordinated their flight to Memphis with an important schedule in mind: get there in time Sunday to watch the Eagles' NFC Championship Game.

Once there, they have arranged a room with food to catch the 6:40 p.m. showdown as a team the night before they face the Grizzlies.

“We’re going to enjoy this with the city of Philadelphia,” Brett Brown said. “Stuff like this doesn’t come around very often. So on behalf of our team, we say, like the rest of the city: Go Eagles.”

The Sixers and Eagles have been showing their support for each other all season by attending games. Joel Embiid, in particular, has been a familiar face at Lincoln Financial Field, including this memorable reaction to Jake Elliott’s field goal in September.

Embiid noted the momentum of both the Eagles and Sixers this season and what it means for Philadelphia.

“Every time I go to an Eagles game, they always win,” Embiid said. “I’m going to be pulling for them. I want to say good luck. It would be good for the city … Hopefully, they win and on to the Super Bowl.”

Justin Anderson’s support of the Eagles goes beyond playing in the same city. His friendships with Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long began before the NBA (see story).

“I talked to them and they were really excited,” Anderson said. “They think they’ve got a really good chance. It’d be huge for the city. Going to the Super Bowl, it’d be good. I’m excited, I’m excited. I hope they pull this one out.”

The Sixers will watch the Eagles fight through the postseason as they hope to be doing in April too. They ultimately have the same goal and have an appreciation for how far the Eagles have come already.

“I hope they win it all,” Ben Simmons said. “I’m an Eagles fan now.” 

Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

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Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

HOUSTON — Chris Paul scored 33 points and 11 rebounds, James Harden had 22 points and the Houston Rockets held off the Golden State Warriors 116-108 on Saturday night to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

Harden stepped back from Stephen Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left. Harden then blocked Curry's 3-point attempt after a timeout, and Paul made two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts.

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half (see full recap).

Olynyk's free throw gives Heat win over Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kelly Olynyk scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a free throw with 0.2 seconds left, to help the Miami Heat erase a five-point deficit in the final 34 seconds and stun the Charlotte Hornets 106-105 on Saturday night.

Wayne Ellington had 26 points on six 3-pointers, Joe Johnson had 22 points and Olynyk was brilliant down the stretch.

Nic Batum scored a season-high 26 points and Kemba Walker had 22 for Charlotte, which had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Charlotte led 105-100 when Johnson got free for a dunk. The Hornets inbounded the ball to Batum, but Josh Richardson ripped it from his hands and passed to Johnson, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to tie (see full recap).

Thunder score 148 points, keep Lebron short of 30,000 for career
CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points.

Oklahoma City nearly got there, too.

Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 on Saturday by the Thunder, who not only rolled to their fourth straight win but kept James shy of a historic milestone.

George scored 36 points, Westbrook had 23 and 20 assists and Anthony dropped a season-high 29 points as the Thunder tied the record for the most points given up by a Cleveland team in a regulation game. Philadelphia scored 148 on the Cavs back in 1972.

"I've never in my basketball life gave up 148 points, not even probably playing video games," James said. "They got everything that they wanted. Inside, outside, they had it moving." (see full recap).

Pelicans' stars all contribute in win over Grizzlies
NEW ORLEANS — Jrue Holiday scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies 111-104 on Saturday night.

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds but did not score his first points of the second half until he dunked with 1:15 to go in the game, giving the Pelicans a 108-102 lead.

Darius Miller added 12 points in a reserve role for New Orleans, which never trailed but very nearly blew a 21-point lead.

Trailing by 15 at halftime, Memphis scored the first 13 points of the third quarter, part of a 16-2 run to open the half that trimmed New Orleans' lead to a single point with most of the third quarter remaining (see full recap).