Jahil Okafor is stuck in purgatory.
Less than 12 hours after the Sixers decided not to pick up his fourth-year rookie option, the 21-year-old center told reporters that he’d like to move on with his career via buyout or trade.
Brett Brown spoke about the Okafor topic before tip-off against the Hawks, explaining that the 2015 draft pick was simply down on the depth chart for various reasons.
“I think when I look at Joel Embiid, we can end the conversation there,” Brown said pregame. “Joel is going to play the lion’s share of the minutes. The conversation really is Amir (Johnson), I suppose. Right now I’ve decided that, for defensive reasons and veteran reasons, to go with Amir. At times, there is a small ball game where we play Dario Saric as a 5. Richaun Holmes is going to be in the conversation in a few days or a week or whatever that is. There’s a whole other thing coming. So for me, that’s how I see it. It’s my job as the coach to make those decisions. That’s the decision I made. Those aren’t easy decisions, but it’s the decision we made. And I think Jahlil has greater aspirations obviously, rather than being Joel’s backup. It’s a little bit like Nerlens (Noel). So we try to help him and help the club as time unfolds.”
It was sort of a catch-22 for Okafor. Exercising his option would have left his new team with a $6.3 million dollar cap hit next season. Passing on the option, then trading him, would mean that Jahlil could simply walk at the end of the year.
For now, he’ll just sit on the bench until a resolution is reached.
“There’s a part of it from a human side that I understand,” Brown explained. “I look at it with a few sort of vision lines. When I look at Jahlil, trying to help him move forward, whether that’s here or somewhere else, trying to make sure that we give him our best effort coaching him and getting him lifting and getting him shots and playing basketball – although I’m not playing him – still taking in this environment and keeping him positive and moving forward and developing. I look at that responsibility. And he and I talk freely. Then I look at Bryan (Colangelo); he’s inherited a situation and he’s looking to do the right thing by the organization. Jahlil’s done nothing wrong since he’s been here. He’s handled himself with class. And he’s been tremendous as a teammate. So you’ve got this sort of slippery slope of Bryan trying to do the best for the organization in a situation he inherited, and Jahlil wanting to play basketball. Somewhere out there, I’m always reminded with my young guys, what is the high road? What’s the right thing to do? What would you want somebody to tell your son? All I know is to come in with your head high and do your job and things will work out. I truly believe that. And so the frustration Jahlil has, I get. I understand that. I don’t begrudge him at all. I’m gonna continue to coach him. Bryan is going to continue to do his job. And at 21 years old he’s got a hell of a future.”
“He’s experienced a lot since he’s been here. He’s a good person. He is a talent. I’m going to continue to coach him until someone says I’m not.”
Okafor could return home to Chicago and play for the Bulls next year. Releasing him does nothing for the Sixers, but if they haven’t traded him by now, it’s probably not going to happen. Might be time to just move on instead of holding the guy hostage.
Brett Brown on Jahlil Okafor: pic.twitter.com/7TukLh0die
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) November 1, 2017