For weeks, the #FreeJah hashtag pushed for Jahlil Okafor’s trade from Philadelphia. Now in Brooklyn, his path to playing may prove just as difficult.
Originally drafted with the third overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Jahlil Okafor jumped out the gate running. His impressive rookie stat line (17.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks) provided a silver lining for the 10-72 Philadelphia 76ers.
That year was the beginning of an incline for the Philadelphia franchise, now referred to as “the Process.”
Everything began an incredible turnaround for the team, but not for Okafor himself.
In a logjam of big men and (though denied) efforts to tank, the former 3rd overall pick became an outcast his sophomore season. All his numbers dropped, including his minutes per game and appearances in the 76ers’ starting lineup.
It got so bad that Okafor and reporters openly discussed his being the franchise family’s black sheep in press conferences after practice. He spoke with ESPN back in November, after logging only 25 minutes of play on the year.
“I would like for them to just send me somewhere where I can get an opportunity, I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me and I would just like to get an opportunity to play with a trade or a buyout. I just hope something happens quickly.”
Players and fans alike began to feel for the young star, who was being primed for a promising NBA career just three short years ago. A #FreeJah hashtag began trending, and less than a month later, he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
The road ahead will still be difficult for Okafor, who’s played only one of his three games with the Nets. He posted 10 points and 4 rebounds in the Nets recent loss to Toronto, his first game since October.
First points ✔️ for @JahlilOkafor! pic.twitter.com/WeKiP2eUo2
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 16, 2017
So fans were surprised when the big man didn’t appear last night for what would have been his home debut.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson spoke with the New York Post following the Brooklyn loss on his plan for Jahlil going forward.
“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.”
It seems Okafor’s chance to earn his keep in the league will be put on hold again. Whether this means he’ll be headed to the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate, or getting some very meaningful reps in practice.
Despite Twitter’s best efforts, Jah isn’t free. Not yet anyway.
There’s no word on whether he’ll suit up for Wednesday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.
Brooklyn could certainly use him while trying to avoid a four-game losing streak. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm est.