Jahlil Okafor ‘trying to focus on playing basketball’ amid trade rumors
Jahlil Okafor has rejoined the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of Wednesday’s match-up with the Boston Celtics after not traveling with the team for its past two games amid persistent trade rumors. And now that Okafor is back with the team, the second-year player is doing his best to ignore all the rampant speculation.
“I’m just trying to focus on playing basketball,” Okafor said Wednesday following shootaround, via ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “It’s really difficult with all the rumors, not knowing if I’ll be here tomorrow. But I know I’m playing tonight and that’s what I’m focusing on.”
Okafor, who has averaged 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 games this season, also indicated the 76ers are keeping him apprised of any developments.
“The organization has been up front with me and communicating with me that they were in advanced trades,” Okafor said. “They didn’t tell me I was certainly out of the door, just that it was a possibility. I’m grateful of Coach (Brett Brown) and [the] organization that was up front with me. I know it’s rare for teams to do that.”
Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo acknowledged last week trade talks were ongoing, with some of those discussions presumably revolving around Okafor, who has been in the middle of trade rumors for weeks.
“We’ve got three talented bigs,” Colangelo said last week on 97.5 The Fanatic, via NJ.com. “They all feel that they deserve to be looked at as a potential starter and be paid as a starter. The phones have been ringing. There has been a lot of conversations. There’s been some activity. Quite a bit actually in recent weeks. It’s not something that’s just come up in recent weeks because it’s something we’ve been looking to address since I got here.”
The Sixers obviously have a glut of players at the center position, with Okafor, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel all vying for playing time. As Colangelo noted, the 76ers have acknowledged going all the way back to last summer that something would have to be done about the situation. And it certainly appears Okafor will end up being the odd man out.