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."