The Brooklyn Nets have kept Jahlil Okafor on the bench for all but one game since acquiring him, but Kenny Atkinson sees that changing shortly.
The Brooklyn Nets traded Trevor Booker to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stuaskas back on Dec. 7, but only one of them has seen significant action. Since coming over, Stuaskas has gotten 146 minutes of total run. Okafor, meanwhile, has seen just 23 minutes of action. Head coach Kenny Atkinson, however, has plans to free Jah sooner than later.
“He’s close. I’d expect to see him against Minnesota,” said Atkinson according to NetsDaily’s Bryan Fonseca. “I think we’ll start to get him some minutes. He’s been doing a phenomenal job getting ready physically with our assistant coaches learning what we’re doing. Collectively we feel like he’s ready to get some minutes.”
Okafor’s only appearance for the Nets was against the Toronto Raptors. He played all 23 of his minutes in the 120-87 blowout loss. In that time, he went 5-off-11 from the field and recorded 10 points, but his conditioning has been a cause for concern since coming over from Philadelphia.
Brooklyn has been working methodically to get Okafor back into game shape, and that’s a byproduct of withering away on the Sixers bench for the last two seasons. This year, he’s laced up for just two games and totaled 25 minutes before the trade. It was a dramatic drop from year two, where Okafor averaged 22.7 minutes a night but was limited to 50 games.
Although he’s had the last couple of years to workout and stay in shape, doing drills against a chair doesn’t mimic the intensity of an actual game. Because of that, there was apprehension on the Nets’ side to just throw him into the rotation. The coaching staff is treating this situation like an injury, and Atkinson will keep watch on Okafor’s minutes.
“It’s not going to be 48 minutes right off the bat,” said Atkinson. “We’ll build him up and evaluate where he is physically and game-wise. Like anybody, you’ve got to earn it with play. Let’s see it in small doses and hopefully build him up to bigger minutes.”
Wednesday night will be the second game of the Nets’ five-game homestand. They’ve gotten off to a strong start and downed the Orlando Magic 98-95 on Monday.