Jahlil Okafor

Okafor's parting shot at Sixers' coaches off base

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Okafor's parting shot at Sixers' coaches off base

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.

Jahlil Okafor rips Sixers' coaching staff

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Jahlil Okafor rips Sixers' coaching staff

Updated: 9:57 p.m.

The #FreeJah movement is now in full effect in Brooklyn, where Jahlil Okafor has played in just one of six games since being traded by the Sixers.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is hesitant to give Okafor big minutes just yet until the center works his way into game shape. 

Sound familiar?

"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 told 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."

An "actual NBA coaching staff" ... "actually working with an NBA staff." Those aren't subtle digs at the Sixers. Those are pretty straightforward.

The Sixers gave Okafor multiple chances over his first two seasons but moved away from him this season, when he played 25 total minutes in two games before the trade to Brooklyn.

Okafor's stint with the Nets isn't off to a fast start, and it's clear he holds the Sixers responsible for some of that.

On Tuesday night, Okafor clarified his comments.

"I've expressed countless times the love I have for the Philly coaching staff," he said in an Instagram story on his account. "I don't 'blame' them for anything. Hate that my quote was taken out of context. Nothing but love and appreciation for everyone there."

Okafor, Stauskas debut for Nets in ugly loss

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Okafor, Stauskas debut for Nets in ugly loss

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry had his 11th career triple-double, DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points and the Toronto Raptors won their ninth straight meeting with Brooklyn by routing the Nets 120-87 on Friday night.

Serge Ibaka scored 18 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 as Toronto won its eighth consecutive home game and improved to 10-1 at Air Canada Centre.

It was the second triple-double of the season for Lowry, who finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Lowry's previous triple-double came against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 27.

Nik Stauskas scored 22 points in his Brooklyn debut and Isaiah Whitehead had 13 for the Nets in their most lopsided defeat of the season. Brooklyn's previous worst loss was a 107-86 blowout at New York on Oct. 27. The Nets lost by more than 14 points for the second time.

Norman Powell and Jakob Poeltl each scored 11 points for the Raptors, who played without forward C.J. Miles (sore left shoulder).

Nets guard Allen Crabbe (sore left knee) and forward DeMarre Carroll (rest) both got the night off. Brooklyn was playing the second game of a back-to-back, and its third in four days.

With Carroll and Crabbe unavailable, Brooklyn's recently acquired duo of Jahlil Okafor and Stauskas made their Nets debuts. Both arrived in a Dec. 8 trade with Philadelphia (see full recap).

Paul, Rockets rout Spurs for 12th straight win
HOUSTON -- Chris Paul had 28 points, eight assists and seven steals to lead the Houston Rockets to their 12th straight victory, a 124-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Paul became the first player in NBA history to post 28 points, eight assists and seven steals in a game against the Spurs. In the past 10 years, that stat line has been achieved just 10 times -- Paul has done it six of those times. The Rockets are unbeaten when he plays this season.

Paul's dazzling performance came on a night James Harden had one of his worst 3-point shooting nights of the season, making 6 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 11 from 3. Harden had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, scoring half his points on 14-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.

The Rockets are on the fourth-longest win streak in franchise history and the longest since a franchise-best 22 straight in the 2007-08 season.

All Rockets starters and reserve Eric Gordon had scored in double figures by the end of the third quarter. Clint Capela had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon scored 14 points, Ryan Anderson had 12, and Trevor Ariza added 11 (see full recap).

Gobert, Favors hurt at Jazz still beat Celtics
BOSTON -- Ricky Rubio had 22 points, Donovan Mitchell added 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and the Utah Jazz beat the Boston Celtics 107-95 on Friday night.

Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Hood also finished with 17 points for the Jazz, who snapped a four-game losing streak. It was Utah's first victory in Boston since 2008, a span of nine games.

But the win came at a cost.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert left the game early in the first quarter with a left knee injury after teammate Derrick Favors fell backward into his leg. Gobert was able to walk off the court on his own power, but went straight to the locker room and did not return.

The second quarter brought more injuries. First, Boston's Daniel Theis left with a facial injury. Later, Jaylen Brown of the Celtics caught Favors with an incidental elbow, leaving him bleeding from his left eye and Brown from his elbow. Favors received six stitches and did not return.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 33 points. Al Horford added 21 points and seven assists (see full recap).