BOSTON — Jahlil Okafor believed he could be traded while the Sixers were on the road and he stayed back in Philadelphia.
“I thought it’s a good chance,” Okafor said Wednesday after going through shootaround. “While I’m not traveling with the team, I was expecting something to happen pretty fast. Nothing did, so I’m back and I’m playing tonight. I did think for a while that I probably wouldn’t be here in Boston right now.”
He added, "It was just a weird situation for me, something I've never had to deal with."
The Sixers chose to sit Okafor on Saturday and hold him out of their trip to Charlotte on Monday as talks continued. When the deal did not come to fruition, Okafor rejoined the team in Boston for Wednesday’s game. A deal still could happen at some point before the Feb. 23 deadline.
“I don’t believe they’re off,” Brett Brown said of trade talks. “I think this particular one has not happened. The trade deadline is whenever it is, it’s probably fluid. The one that was the reason for us reacting to us to Jahlil not being with the team, very advanced discussions, did not happen.”
Brown has been in scenarios before where players have been held out of a game because of an upcoming trade. The fact that Okafor missed two games, though, was different.
“This isn’t uncommon as it relates to the topic (of trades),” Brown said. “It is uncommon probably as it relates to the duration of time. If it weren’t for Jahlil Okafor being an A-plus person, then none of this would have been comfortable.”
Okafor spent time at the Sixers' training complex in Camden with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as discussions continued. He was there receiving treatment when he was notified by the training staff on Tuesday that he could rejoin the team. Okafor was "excited" to hear the news that he could get back on the court.
“I was eager to find out where I was going to end up, if I was still going to be a Sixer, if I was going to have to pack up and start somewhere else,” he said. "I just was eager to find out where I was going to be."
The Sixers informed Okafor he was involved in talks and explained their reasoning behind sitting him out for two games. They also let him know nothing was set in stone.
“The organization has been upfront with me, communicating with me that they’re looking in advanced trades,” Okafor said. “They didn’t tell me that I was certainly out the door. They just told me it was a possibility. I’m just grateful that I have Coach Brown and guys in the organization who are upfront with me because I know it’s rare for teams to do that. I haven’t been left in the dark.”
Nerlens Noel will start and Okafor will come off the bench against the Celtics. Brown repeated he will continue to coach and work with Okafor until he is no longer wearing a Sixers uniform. This is the Sixers' last game before the All-Star break and trade deadline.
“It’s not that challenging,” Okafor said of rejoining the Sixers. “I’m a basketball player and I’m expecting to go out there and play basketball tonight. I have guys on this team I’ve been playing with for the past year-and-a-half that I've built great relationships with. They've been great, they've been supportive. They were all happy to see me back. That's always a good feeling."