Word travels fast these days, particularly in NBA circles. So by the time Brett Brown arrived at the Wells Fargo Center for Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, he was well aware of Jahlil Okafor’s comments about the Sixers’ coaching staff.
Okafor, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this month, has played in just one of six games with his new team. That’s because head coach Kenny Atkinson feels the center’s stamina isn’t up to par just yet.
Okafor agreed in a backhanded swipe at the Sixers (see story).
“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 to the New York Post. “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.”
Okafor later apologized, but Brown didn’t appear thrilled with the initial statement.
“Jahlil knows what we did here. It’s a young person who gave a quote,” Brown said of Okafor, who played 25 total minutes in just two games for the Sixers this season. “… I think everybody understands how we treat people here and the attention he received while he was here.”
You can call Brown a lot of things (and we’re sure you are after that rough 101-95 loss to the Kings), but the man is far from a liar. While he was busy going out of his way to be open with Okafor about everything from defensive deficiencies to bubbling trade rumors, the center opted to keep his feelings bottled up until he was shipped away.
From the Sixers going hard in practice for a coach who preaches to every person within earshot about “career-best fitness” or the voluntary scrimmages on off days for players that receive low minutes in games, there were plenty of opportunities for Okafor to stay in shape and sharpen his game.
That doesn’t even account for the actual on-court minutes Okafor had to prove his worth along the way. His rookie season, the big man played 30.0 minutes a night as he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games before suffering a torn right meniscus.
Last season, Okafor put up 11.8 points and 4.8 boards in 22.7 minutes a night as he struggled to find his role in the center trio along with Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. Those numbers came in 50 games before he was ruled out for the remainder of the season again with right knee soreness.
Once Embiid finally took the court and provided the Sixers with a dominant man in the middle on both ends of the floor, Okafor instantly became expendable.
Having a coach spend more time working with him — or adopting a vegan diet — weren't going to alter that fate.