Jahlil Okafor

New York Notes: Okafor, Lee, LeVert

Jahlil Okafor hasn’t found much success on the court since being traded to the Nets, but coach Kenny Atkinson believes the big man is simply a “victim of circumstance,” as Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.

“Sometimes it’s just circumstances,” Atkinson said. “I’d say his approach, his buy-in to what we’re doing, has been phenomenal. His buy-in to our performance team and getting his body, improving his body has been phenomenal. So, very pleased.”

Atkinson had shortened his rotation before giving the Duke product some run against the Sixers on Sunday. Okafor, who will be a free agent after the season, had four points in his five minutes of action and he may see more court time during the last month of the season.

“He has some days where he gets a little down, which is normal,” the coach added. “But he picks it right back up and has really busted his tail. So hopefully in these last games we can find opportunities for him to get there. I’d like to see more, so hopefully we get to that point.”

Here’s more from the Big Apple:

  • Courtney Lee, who was the subject of trade rumors earlier this season, isn’t happy with the Knicks‘ effort on the court lately. “Effort is the key to everything,” Lee exclaimed (via Fred Kerber of the New York Post). “It takes no talent to run from the paint out to contest a 3-point shot, that’s just all effort. We have to get everybody’s effort. Everybody’s got to be locked in.” The shooting guard is under contract with New York through the 2019/20 season.
  • Nets GM Sean Marks always believed former No. 20 overall pick Caris LeVert would develop into a reliable playmaker despite criticism from naysayers who argued that the team made a mistake by taking the Michigan product that high, as Bryan Fonseca of SB Nation relays. LeVert, whom the team gave up Thaddeus Young in order to acquire, is averaging 5.3 assists per contest this season.

New York Notes: Noah, Ntilikina, Okafor, Nets

Although March 1 isn’t an official deadline for the Knicks to make a decision on Joakim Noah, the team will have to waive him on or before that day if he wants to retain his postseason eligibility. That makes it a date worth watching, and according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the National Basketball Players Association will have an eye on the situation.

Berman hears from sources that the NBPA will “intensify its interest” in the Noah situation if he remains on the Knicks’ roster – but not with the team – beyond March 1. If the veteran center wants to return to the Knicks at that point and the club wants him to remain in exile, things “could get ugly,” per Berman.

Sources tell Berman that the Knicks were within their right to suspend Noah for insubordination after he cursed out head coach Jeff Hornacek last month, but chose not to do so — Noah continues to receive his full salary during his absence. If the big man isn’t released this week, one potential scenario, Berman suggests, would see the Knicks brass telling him to sit tight and prepare for the 2018/19 season, when Hornacek may no longer be the club’s head coach.

While we wait to see what happens with Noah, let’s round up a few more items from out of New York City…

  • In a separate article for The New York Post, Berman examines the upcoming summer for Frank Ntilikina. The rookie point guard has suggested he’ll spend much of his offseason in his home country of France, but the Knicks will likely want him to play for their Summer League team in July.
  • Jahlil Okafor hasn’t seen any action for the Nets since February 12, but still believes he’s capable of fitting in with Brooklyn’s fast-paced style of play, writes Fred Kerber of The New York Post. “I wish we’d had him since training camp,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Okafor. “It makes it easier. We’re scrambling here trying to find a lineup so he’s a little bit of a victim of that.”
  • Speaking of the Nets‘ lineup, it got a boost on Monday, as both Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returned from injuries. Tom Dowd has the details at the club’s official site.

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Crabbe, Casey, Celtics

The Nets‘ acquisition of Jahlil Okafor signaled a change of scenery for a talented yet displaced player. With 24 games left in the season, however, the Nets seem to be wasting their opportunity to audition Okafor as a potential long-term commodity, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Since being traded to Brooklyn, Okafor has appeared in 22 games while averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.0 PPG. Okafor’s playing time has been inconsistent, which makes it difficult to assess both his value and interest in retaining him beyond this season.

“Getting on the floor is very important,” Okafor said. “As a basketball player we all want to be on the court. My minutes have been fluctuating up and down, but the coaches say it’s nothing on my end.”

Head coach Kenny Atkinson noted that the team feels comfortable with 19-year-old Jarrett Allen playing at power forward with Okafor at center. As it stands, the team will have a decision to make in terms of Okafor’s playing time and future.

Check out other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets shooting guard Allen Crabbe has been on a tear, averaging 25.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG over the team’s last four games. It has taken a while but Crabbe is finally playing and scoring the way the Nets hoped he would, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.
  • Dwane Casey is headed to Los Angeles to coach Team LeBron this weekend, but his proudest accomplishment is entering the break with the Raptors wielding the best record in the Eastern Conference. Despite the improvements the franchise has enjoyed under Casey, there always seems to be a perception that the Raptors head coach is on the hot seat, Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports writes.
  • After a rough stretch in which they’ve lost nine of their last 15 games, the Celtics may explore changing their lineup after the All-Star break, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Porzingis, Powell

The issue with the shooting shoulder of Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz has taken an interesting turn, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Fultz, who has missed all but four games this season, was apparently upset with his head coach Brett Brown after it was reported that Brown classified Fultz’s injury as “psychosomatic”.

Fultz took to social media to air his frustrations, while Brown insisted that he was misquoted, that he has never wavered from the narrative that Fultz’s shot is being affected by a shoulder injury, and that Fultz’s shoulder still hurts sometimes when he rises to shoot a jump shot.

Brown understands Fultz’s frustration, but believes Fultz will ultimately accept the misunderstanding. “Last night’s erroneous reporting was disappointing,” Brown said, “(but Markelle) knows the organization. He knows me. It doesn’t require much more to be said than that.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Kristaps Porzingis is planning to use his first All-Star game appearance as a recruiting opportunity, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. One of his first targets? Team LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving, who is from the New York area and listed the Knicks as a preferred destination before being traded to Boston.
  • After not playing in three of the team’s previous four games and having being relegated to mop-up duty lately, Raptors guard Norman Powell played well in a come-from-behind win against Minnesota last night, and his teammates weren’t surprised one bit, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, who reports that Powell is still a popular locker room figure.
  • The Nets have benched veteran center Tyler Zeller in favor of youngsters Jahlil Okafor and Jarrett Allen, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post. While head coach Kenny Atkinson wouldn’t confirm the move as permanent, Allen started in Zeller’s place in last night’s loss to the Knicks after Zeller had started 33 of the last 34 games.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Nets, DeRozan, Burke, Knicks

Markelle Fultz has missed almost 40 games this season as he’s battled a phantom shoulder injury that has taken away his ability to shoot the ball. While Fultz is practicing with the team, he is still a long way from making a return and the situation has head coach Brett Brown confused, per ESPN.

Fultz shot 50% from the field in his lone college season; he impressed the Sixers so much that the team traded up to draft him first overall in last year’s draft. However, a muscular imbalance in the shoulder hampered Fultz’s shot so much that he did not even attempt a three-point shot while healthy. Brown said he has “never experienced anything like this” but that Philadelphia is dedicated to helping Fultz find his stroke.

“It’s reclaiming the shot that he used to have,” Brown said. “The timeline of when that happens, none of us know. But I feel like there is discomfort in his shoulder and it does affect his shot.”

In four games this season, Fultz averaged 6.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 1.8 APG while shooting 33% from the field.

Check out other Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, two of the first three overall picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, are with the Nets organization now and general manager Sean Marks is impressed with their maturity. As Net Income at NetsDaily writes, Marks spoke to WFAN recently gave a glowing review of the organization and how it has helped its young players get acclimated.
  • Raptors star DeMar DeRozan was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the league’s officiating, the NBA announced on Tuesday.
  • Trey Burke played just eight minutes of the Knicks‘ win over the Nets on Monday but his impact was noticeable, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Burke lit up the G League with the Knicks’ affiliate and showed glimpses of the player who was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
  • In a separate story, Berman of the New York Post examines the Knicks‘ potential strategy as the trade deadline nears. At 20-24, the Knicks are currently three games out of the eighth playoff spot. A strong run could put the team in playoff position but head coach Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly stated the developing the young players comes before worrying about the playoffs. Berman notes that if the Knicks sell, their main priority will be clearing up the logjam at center that features four capable players (Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, and Joakim Noah).

New York Notes: Hernangomez, Carroll, Okafor

Willy Hernangomez got back on the court for the Knicks in Sunday’s win over Dallas, with Jeff Hornacek opting to get all three of his active centers into the game. However, Hernangomez still only played six minutes. As Marc Berman of The New York Post details, the young big man was happy to get back into the rotation, but also told The Post for the second time in two weeks that he wouldn’t mind being traded if it means he’d get to play more.

“I feel great to know other teams are interested about me, right?,” Hernangomez said, referring to a weekend report that he’s receiving trade interest. “My situation is like this right now, not playing much. But I’m ready. I like to be with my teammates. I like to be a part of this team. But I don’t want to [sound] selfish, but I want to play. I’m ready for everything.”

According to Berman, the Knicks still hope to make a deal to clear their center logjam before next month’s trade deadline, but would prefer to move Kyle O’Quinn rather than Hernangomez. Sources tell Berman that a couple “playoff-bound teams” have inquired about O’Quinn as a rental.

Here’s more from out of New York:

New York Notes: Okafor, Hollis-Jefferson, Beasley

Jahlil Okafor admitted relief after making his home debut with the Nets in Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves. However, both he and the Nets are still in the beginning stages of their relationship, getting familiar with how both sides operate, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes.

“It works on both parties, of me having to adjust to the team and the team having to adjust to me,” Okafor said. “I’m open to it and so are they.”

Okafor has played sparingly this season, both for the Sixers and the Nets since he was traded. Brooklyn indicated that Okafor would start playing regularly after he improved his conditioning, a byproduct of appearing in just two games in Philadelphia. The 22-year-old is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and a strong finish to the 2017/18 could go a long way to helping Okafor revive his career.

“Our guys have got to learn how to play with him,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s the chemistry with the group he’s going to be out there with.”

Check out other news out of the NBA’s New York teams below:

  • Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson rarely dealt with losing as a high school and college player but his tenure in Brooklyn has been a different story, Kerber of the New York Post writes in a separate story. However, even with the Nets hovering around the worst record in the NBA during his time in Brooklyn, Hollis-Jefferson said he understands the level of competition in the NBA does not compare with high school or college. “When you get to the NBA, it’s pretty much everyone’s talented, everyone is here because they can do something good so it comes down to the little things,” he said.
  • After making some critical comments of his three stints with the Heat, Knicks forward Michael Beasley cleared the air with his former coach, Erik Spoelstra, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Beasley left Friday’s game with an ankle injury but met up with Spoelstra after the game. Both Spoelstra and Beasley wished each other well in their press comments.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Porzingis, Okafor

The Sixers have yet to narrow down a return timeline for rookie Markelle Fultz but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have big plans for him in the future, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

The design of our team was […] with him in mind and Ben Simmons in mind,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, “And then you have a bunch of Danny Greens. You do, you have a bunch of receivers.

Limited to just four games prior to a mysterious shoulder injury, Fultz didn’t have much time to make a positive impression. While his 6.0 points per game leave much to be desired, Pompey reiterates that the guard was drafted to be a complete offensive weapon for the Sixers.

I feel like, when you see in doses [Fultz] play, you are reminded of what he was brought in to do,” Brown said. Fultz recently started scrimmaging with the Sixers.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are embroiled in a tough stretch and much of that may have to do with star forward Kristaps Porzingis wearing down. “I’m tired. I’m so tired right now,” Porzingis told Ian Begley of ESPN after the second game of a back-to-back. “I have one day now to rest my legs and then get back and play better and have more energy and also try and bring the team’s energy up.
  • He may not have broken any records in his Barclays Debut but Jahlil Okafor filled a role admirably for the Nets on Wednesday. “He was solid, understood what we do, what we’re doing,” head coach Kenny Atkinson told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It’s just going to take him time. He really understood our system, and was in the right place.
  • Notice something different about Knicks sophomore Ron Baker last night? The guard took the floor with a protective mask, as Al Iannazzone of Newsday wrote prior to the contest. The point guard admirably, but unsuccessfully, set out to contest an Anthony Davis dunk on Saturday night and paid the price.

Jahlil Okafor Talks Fit In Brooklyn, Offense, Role

Jahlil Okafor believes that Brooklyn is the right place for him to reach his potential.

“I’m pretty confident, just talking with the guys in the locker room, and it’s all been positive feedback with the coaches,” Okafor said (via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).

Okafor was seemingly on the trade block every year since being drafted by Philadelphia with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Immediately after the big man was dealt to the Nets, D’Angelo Russell, who went one spot ahead of Okafor in 2015, reached out to convince him that the franchise was the right landing spot.

“D’Angelo is somebody I talk with often and he loves it here,” Okafor said. “He had nothing but positive things to say to me even before I stepped foot into the facility, and everything he said is true. They really care about us, the player development has been amazing and just even off the floor it’s been a good time.”

In addition to working on conditioning, Okafor had to adjust his offensive game. Brooklyn’s defense is similar to the scheme Okafor ran in Philadelphia, but the new offense is much different.

“The offense was something that was all new to me, completely different offense, completely different pace,” Okafor said of the Nets’ 3-point-heavy attack. “It’s only been two weeks, so I don’t want to sit there and say I’ve developed an amazing 3-point shot. That’s something we’ve been working on. But in the end of the day, I know what I do; I know what I’m able to do to help this team, and that’s not going to be me shooting 3s.”

How many minutes will the big man receive upon re-entering the rotation? The team didn’t provide specifics, but coach Kenny Atkinson told Okafor that he would be eased into action.

“He didn’t tell me I was limited. He just told me he was going to work me up, build me into playing big minutes,” said Okafor. “From a basketball standpoint, it was difficult, but in the grand scheme of living life, it’s not that bad. I’m in the NBA and I was able to work on my craft every day and get better, so I’m looking forward to playing.”

Injury Notes: Sixers, Harden, Kings, Okafor

Joel Embiid is considered doubtful for Wednesday’s game, and Markelle Fultz isn’t quite ready to get back on the court yet, but the Sixers got some positive news on both players this week. As Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia details, there was some concern on Sunday night that Embiid had suffered a broken right hand, but x-rays were negative and he believes he’s dealing instead with a sprain.

Meanwhile, Fultz hasn’t played since October, but he appears to be inching toward a return. The club announced today that 2017’s first overall pick has been cleared to “begin the final stage of his return-to-play program.” The press release was light on specifics, but barring setbacks, it sounds like it shouldn’t be much longer before we see Fultz back in the Sixers’ lineup.

Here are a few more injury notes and updates from around the NBA:

  • We know James Harden will be out for at least two weeks with a hamstring strain, but his exact recovery timetable remains unclear. Speaking today to reporters, including Hunter Atkins of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link), Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni suggested that Harden could miss up to four weeks. In an Insider-only piece for ESPN, Kevin Pelton examines how Harden’s absence will affect the Rockets, the NBA, and the star guard’s MVP chances.
  • As one Kings guard gets healthy, another one goes on the shelf. According to a press release from the club, De’Aaron Fox will return on Tuesday after a two-week absence, but Frank Mason will miss at least the next week with a heel contusion.
  • Third-year center Jahlil Okafor is expected to make his home debut for the Nets on Wednesday, as head coach Kenny Atkinson confirmed to reporters on Monday (link via Alex Labidou of NBA.com). Okafor, acquired by Brooklyn nearly a month ago, wasn’t initially ready for regular minutes after having barely played for Philadelphia this season. However, the Nets are ready to get him back on the court and to start increasing his workload, says Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • After missing seven games due to a groin injury, Pistons guard Avery Bradley is set to return to action on Wednesday, writes Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “It was lingering over a few weeks, but now I feel better, I feel like I can go out there and give my all,” Bradley said.