NEW YORK — There is no easy way to play a trio of centers the minutes they are capable of in the same game. Over the last two games the Sixers approach has been sitting Jahlil Okafor, starting Joel Embiid and bringing Nerlens Noel off the bench.
Okafor picked up his second straight DNP (coach’s decision) on Sunday against the Nets. Backup center Richaun Holmes also did not play.
“You can’t jam three into one position,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers 105-95 win (see Instant Replay). “It just short changes and is unfair to everybody.”
There aren’t many similarities to Noel and Okafor’s games other than their shared position. For the athletic Noel, his strong suit is on the defensive end. He scored eight points with four rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes. Okafor’s biggest attribute, on the other hand, is his offense.
“Jahlil is a professional scorer,” Brown said. “Nerlens isn’t that. Nerlens is more of an up-and-down deer, he’s a gazelle running rim to rim … You look at them for the skills they were blessed with … At the moment, it’s a long year, that was a small ball game, Nerlens got the nod, and I thought he did well.”
Both Okafor and Holmes suited up and joined the Sixers on the bench. During the game, an assistant coach showed Brown a video of Nik Stauskas hitting a three. In the background, Holmes and Okafor could be seen waving towels from the sideline.
“That means the most to me,” Brown said. “I have tremendous respect for the way Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes have handled this. Wonderful teammates.”
Veteran Gerald Henderson has talked with Okafor about the change in his role. He noted Okafor is “handling it fine.” Henderson spoke from his own experiences to the second-year player, encouraging him to use this adjustment as motivation.
“Obviously any guy, especially in his position, where he’s a star, he wants to play and I’ve been there,” Henderson said. “Don’t use you not playing in a negative way. It should propel you to do more. If you’re pissed off, sure, do your workouts pissed off. Get in there and do more pissed off. When you get in the game, play pissed off. Use it in a positive way. I think where he’s been, just got to keep moving forward. He’s a good kid so he’s going to handle it the right way.”
The Sixers next game is Wednesday against the Knicks. It remains to be seen how they will manage their bigs in that matchup.
“Even with they’re not playing, they’re still with us, encouraging us,” Embiid said. “Jah gave me a couple (pieces of) advice during the game. It’s hard when you don’t get a chance to get in the game, but that’s basketball and you’ve just got to be ready. Come in every day, work on your game and be with your teammates and be respectful and your time is going to come.”