Jahlil Okafor can’t predict the future. He knows he has been the focus of trade talks. Until a move is made — and if one is — by the Feb. 23 deadline, he is focusing on where he is at the moment.
"I have no idea,” Okafor said in regard to his future after the Sixers' 111-103 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “I'm a Sixer right now and we have a big game tomorrow night (in Orlando). I am right now. I'm going to keep doing what I do. I work as hard as I can for this team and this organization and we'll see what happens.”
The Bulls and Pelicans are among the teams that have inquired about Okafor, according to a source (see story). The Sixers have an unbalanced roster with a logjam of centers. Since January, Okafor’s role has been decreased to DNPs for the most part when Joel Embiid plays. He starts when Embiid is out.
The infrequent playing time has naturally led to a dip in production this season. Okafor is averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game this season, down from 17.5 points and 7.0 boards in 30.0 minutes a night during his rookie campaign.
Still, the big man has attempted to make the most of his limited opportunities. Okafor has started in his last five games while Embiid has been sidelined with a left knee contusion. On Wednesday, Okafor scored 20 points to go with a career-high 10 made free throws, as well as eight rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes against the Spurs.
"Just being aggressive. Coach was telling me just be aggressive, make quick decisions whether I'm going to the rim, shooting or passing," Okafor said. "That was my mindset going into the game on the offensive end, just making quick decisions."
"I see quick decisions," Brett Brown said. "... When he just catches and goes in that 0.5 (seconds) world, he makes plays because he commands double-teams. When his motion is forward, he's really hard to defend because he's nimble enough to go one way and spin out of it and make a move."
A performance like that will only get the trade speculation bubbling even more. Brown has maintained open communication with Okafor as well as Nerlens Noel as the roster has been a topic of trade buzz all season.
"All the time, all the time," Brown said of the frequency of his conversations with Okafor (see story). “We talk like I'm talking to you now and have no problem doing it. It's how I feel most comfortable. I feel like it cleanses myself. I feel like we can talk where it's real. I will help him, we will help him. And I'm going to coach him until somebody tells me I'm not.”