Brett Brown sees both sides of the Jahlil Okafor situation.
Okafor wants to play. The Sixers would rather find a trade than get nothing in return in a buyout. Brown recognizes where everyone is coming from in this tricky scenario.
“The frustration that Jahlil has, I get,” Brown said Wednesday. “I understand that. I don’t begrudge him at all and I’m going to continue to coach him. [Bryan Colangelo's] going to continue to try to do his job.”
Okafor told Colangelo on Tuesday he would like a buyout after the team declined his fourth-year player option (see story). Okafor said he also is open to a trade, but that seems less likely. He will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
“I look at Bryan,” Brown continued. “He’s inherited a situation. He’s trying to do the right thing by the organization.”
Brown has maintained throughout trade talks over the years that he will keep being Okafor’s coach “until somebody tells me I’m not.” Even though Okafor is out of the rotation and has played in only one game this season, Brown and his staff will work with him to make sure he continues his development and conditioning while he’s benched.
“[I am] trying to help him move forward, whether that’s here or someplace else,” Brown said, adding, “at 21 years old, he’s got a hell of a future."
Okafor stayed engaged with the Sixers during Wednesday’s 119-109 win over the Hawks (see observations). He got off the bench during timeouts and between quarters to greet teammates as they came off the court.
“Jahlil’s done nothing wrong since he’s been here,” Brown said. “He’s handled himself with class and he’s been tremendous as a teammate. You’ve got this sort of slippery slope of Bryan trying to do the best for the organization in a situation that he inherited and Jahlil wanting to play basketball.”
Brown said he takes the human element into consideration when navigating this situation.
"I’m always reminded with my young guys, what is the high road?" Brown said. "What is the right thing to do? What would you want somebody to tell your son? All I know is, to come in with your head high and do your job and things will work out. I truly believe that."