From The Other Side: The Re-Unveiling of Jahlil Okafor | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: The Re-Unveiling of Jahlil Okafor

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Updated: January 15, 2017

okafor

 

 

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the stellar performance of Jahlil Okafor.

Joel Embiid, with his 19 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and the “Trust the Process movement that’s been launched as a result of his success, has become a phenomenon both on and off the court.  Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets, he had 24 points and 8 rebounds in just 28 minutes and led the Sixers to their third straight win and their fifth in six games. With Embiid’s emergence, and recent Ben Simmons sightings, there’s every reason for Sixers coaches, players, and fans to be elated about the remainder of this season and the future.

Jahlil Okafor, who led the Sixers in scoring last season at 17.5 points per game, has not been a factor in Philly’s recent winning.  In fact, Okafor racked up four DNP-CDs leading up to Saturday night’s game against the Washington Wizards. Embiid’s success, while good for the Sixers overall, came at the expense of Okafor’s playing time and more importantly his confidence. He did his best to suppress his feelings about not contributing as of late, but eventually even Okafor had to admit that the situation was a little “funky”:

“Obviously it’s a funky situation. It’s funky for all of us. Right now I’m the person who’s sitting out, so obviously not [the position I want to be in]. I know I’m not the type of player that’s a DNP, but that’s what it is right now. Coach Brown has been phenomenal with communicating with me, and I know in the long run I’m going to be fine. I just try to come in here every day and work as hard as I can.”

Embiid is on a minutes restriction and he does not play back-to-back games, which meant there was an opening at the center position. Coach Brown, in his effort to be as transparent with all the players involved in “the process,” told Okafor last week that he would start against the Wizards. Brown said he wanted to keep Nerlens Noel entrenched in his role off the bench, and that Okafor in the starting lineup allowed him to maintain some symmetry. He wanted Okafor to play 28 to 32 minitues, but he also had specific marching orders for Okafor in terms of what he was looking for:

“Just for him to remember who he is, to be reminded of his pedigree, to relax, for him to completely understand that we all look forward to putting him on the floor, and helping him play NBA basketball again.”

It took all of 13 seconds for Okafor’s impact to felt. Off the opening tip, he blocked Marcin Gortat’s shot. Ninety seconds later he faced up Gortat, drove right by him, scored a layup, drew the foul and completed the three-point play. Ninety more seconds after that, Okafor drew yet another foul on Gortat. And although he made just one of two free throws, his aggressiveness forced Wizards Coach Scott Brooks to remove Gortat and bring in Jason Smith with 8:31 left in the first quarter — nearly four to five minutes earlier than normal.

Unfortunately for Brooks, Smith was just as helpless against Okafor as Gortat. First Okafor stole the ball and hit a 10-foot fadeway, then he drew a foul against Smith, which sent him to the free throw line (he made both). A short while after that, Okafor was subbed out of the game for Nerlens Noel, but not before amassing nine points, a block, a steal, and three rebounds in just 6:20 of play. More importantly, when he exited the game the Sixers led 22-11.

Okafor re-entered the game with 10:55 left the second quarter when Noel went to the locker room with a left ankle sprain, and he immediately drew a foul on the third Wizards big man to guard him, Andrew Nicholson. Eventually Nicholson picked up his second foul (not via Okafor) and Gortat re-entered the game. By this point, John Wall and Bradley Beal began to heat up and the Sixers went from leading by 12 to trailing by one point by the time Okafor exited the game with 54.7 seconds left in the first half. Still, Okafor had 16 points at that point, and it wasn’t simply the fact that he was confident, but the diversity in which he was scoring his points. He scored on dunks, he hit turnaround jumpers, he had a sweeping hook, and layups. Since he was the focal point of the offense — Noel was a non-factor the entire night and Embiid was out resting — Okafor was afforded the luxury of taking his time in the post to decide if and how he was going to score.

Washington put the game out of reach in the third quarter by outscoring Philadelphia 30-15. This caused the Sixers to speed up the pace and rely unsuccessfully on outside shots, and not the inside scoring Okafor had reliably provided in the first half. The Sixers shot 28 percent in the third quarter; Okafor took just three shots and made two. He had 10 points and five rebounds in the second half, and although those points were meaningless in terms of affecting the outcome of the game, they went a long way in restoring the confidence that Okafor lost during his four DNPs. He finished with 26 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes — three more than Coach Brown intended to play him.

After the game, despite the fact that his team basically was a no-show in the second half, Brown still found time to share some complimentary words about Okafor’s performance:

 

And here was Okafor in his own words:

Okafor made it his business to inform the media that Coach Brown gave him no assurances on what his role would be for Monday’s game in Milwaukee or beyond. And to his credit, despite his personal achievement against the Wizards, Okafor was visibly disappointed that the Sixers’ three-game winning streak had come to close. But per Brown’s request at the start of the game, he was able to re-establish his identity, perhaps increase his trade value, and more importantly, make it more difficult for his coach to keep him on the bench.

One Last Note.

Shamus Clancy (@shamus_clancy), who writes for the SB Nation blog Liberty Ballers, tweeted about his displeasure on seeing Jahlil Okafor start, and not Joel Embid. Jahlil’s father, Chukwudi,  saw this tweet, and decided to let Shamus know what it was (as Jordan Crawford once said):

https://twitter.com/KFCBarstool/status/820468684204412928

Jahlil’s father later said that was he was hacked but that isn’t as believable as his original offering.

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.




  • hj01850

    True honest reporting is starting on Jahlil Okafor … Philadelphia is starting to understand that that setting up Jahlil Okafor as inferior player to Nerlens Noel isn’t doing anyone a favor. I don’t think Jahlil Okafor wants to play that con game anymore because it’s ruining his career. Look at the obvious … why is Okafor participating during All Star week and the great Nerlens Noel is sitting at home ! And these Nerlens Noel to the Boston Celtics pushers ( oh he’s a modern game fast power forward ) should quiet their know nothing about basketball talent mouths and cease the bull shit.