To say it's been an interesting last few days for Philadelphia 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor would be an understatement. Going back to Saturday night in Miami, Okafor watched the entire game from the Sixers bench as a healthy scratch. After starting and playing 20+ minutes in 6 of their last 7 games it seemed somewhat out of the norm, but nothing about the way Philadelphia has handled their young big men this season has been normal. Then during the game Philly reporters started to notice something was afoot:
I watched J Okafor shake hands w/players,trainers,arena staff Sat night. Entire team felt he was about to be traded. Awkward moment coming.— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) February 15, 2017
Brown said he did not play Okafor tonight because there were trade rumors before the game.— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoCSN) February 12, 2017
Okay then that makes sense. Not indifferent form holding out a pitcher from a start just before the MLB trade deadline. I mean we've seen guys get traded mid-game in baseball. I remember Austin Jackson getting pulled right off the field in the middle of a game due to a trade. You can't have the guy getting injured when you know he's heading somewhere else. So it seemed like Jahlil got to say his goodbyes Saturday night in Philly, and when Sunday came and he didn't board the team plane no one was really surprised:
Jahlil Okafor didn't make it onto the #Sixers team plane to Charlotte. Earliest they can make a trade is tomorrow. https://t.co/1V3sVi1XJZ pic.twitter.com/vyn7snxd7l— Rob Tornoe (@RobTornoe) February 12, 2017
And just like the tweet says it was assumed that the deal, whatever it was, was just waiting for the league offices to reopen Monday morning so it could be processed. I wrote about some of the likely destinations Monday morning, assuming whatever the trade was it would be processed ASAP. Well that turned out to not be the case, and Monday night when asked before the Sixers' matchup with the Hornets Philly head coach Brett Brown was asked what was going on. Via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
“Jahlil Okafor’s situation is transparent,” Brett Brown said Monday. “He’s in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios. So I felt that it complicates things to play him the last game, and now clearly this is continuing on. That’s the reason he isn’t here.”
Riiight. So apparently somebody got cold feet, or perhaps the deal wasn't quite as fleshed out as the Philly brass believed? But you've got to figure there's only one game left for the Sixers (tonight in Boston) before the trade deadline next week so he'll just skip that one too....right?
Guess who boarded a plane to Beantown last night:
Note: Tonight @Burke_Metro reported Okafor sighting at Logan Airport.— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoCSN) February 15, 2017
Jahlil Okafor has gone from near traded to in the #76ers rotation and he will play tonight against the #Celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) February 15, 2017
It's official: Jahlil Okafor is re-joining the Sixers for tonight's game with the Celtics, and not only that but he might even find himself in the starting lineup with Joel Embiid out with an ailing knee. Total Twilight Zone. I can't remember an NBA player being held out multiple games amongst trade speculation without some sort of "injury" or conduct detrimental to the team being the cause.
By all accounts Okafor has been a stand-up guy in Philly and it's certainly strange for the Sixers to jerk a player around this way. Holding him out because you think he's on the move is one thing, but telling him "oh gee we haven't dealt you yet, can you hop on a plane and meet us for the game in Boston tomorrow?" That's ridiculous. Brett Brown was asked how the team would react to Okafor coming back. Via Jess Camerato CSN Philly:
“He’ll come back in and he will be welcomed with open arms with teammates that like him and respect him,” Brown said. “They are friends. He’ll come back into a coaching staff that likes him and respects him because we care for him. He still is ours until somebody tells us he isn’t.”
I can't wait to see where how this madness ends up, and I sincerely hope Okafor can maintain his sanity throughout the ordeal. Although the Celtics have expressed interest in the 21-year old Center/Power-forward in the past, they haven't been linked to him recently. Maybe the Sixers are just dropping him off in Boston tonight? Who knows. I'd believe just about anything when it comes to this story at this point.
Our Celtics Life readers think it's more likely he's coming to fight someone:
Jahlil Okafor's 76ers play the Celtics tomorrow in Boston. Which is most likely?— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) February 15, 2017
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Mark Allison 2/15/2017 11:48:00 AM Tweet Edit