Nets’ Okafor needs to get in ‘better condition’ before playing regularly
When Jahlil Okafor got traded to the Nets earlier this month, he was happy because he'd finally get the opportunity to play more regularly. That has not happened quite yet. Okafor played in just two games for the Philadelphia 76ers this season after being booted from Brett Brown's rotation at the end of October. So far with the Nets, Okafor has appeared in just one out of the six games since the trade. The game he played in was a 120-87 loss at the hands of Toronto, scoring 10 points in 23 minutes on 5-for-11 shooting while also grabbing five boards and notching two steals. After his debut, Okafor sat out Sunday's game against the Pacers and Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson indicated that it will take some time before #VeganJah gets regular playing time.
“I talked to Jahlil, had a great conversation with him. The plan going forward is a couple things. We need to help him get in better condition, that’s first off,” Atkinson said. “We need to integrate him more into the system. It’s going to take some time. I’m not going to give you a date but it’s a strategic plan, just like we’ve done with all our guys, integrating guys into the team. It’s going to take some time.”
While it's clear that the Nets plan to integrate him gradually, it's not a huge surprise that he's not in game shape. Prior to getting traded to Brooklyn, he'd played just 25 minutes total for the Sixers with his last game action coming against Utah on November 7 when he picked up three fouls in three minutes. None the less, getting on the floor was a positive for Okafor and hard work will end up paying off for the former third overall pick with his new team.
"I felt rusty, had some cobwebs on me, but just to be able to get out there, run up and down and play basketball, was great," Okafor said.
The Sixers will get their first look at Jah in another uniform on January 31.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.