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WHAT THEY SAY: Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas

Brooklyn Nets

Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas were introduced to the media on Monday at HSS Training Center. We’ve transcribed both players interviews.

——- JAHLIL OKAFOR ——

REACTION TO TRADE, RELIEVING?

“Yeah it was very exciting for me and my entire family. We’re all excited, we’ve been waiting for this new opportunity. I feel like I was dreaming. Finally happened and I’m in a great city.”

HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN?

“It’s been an adjustment. It hasn’t been easy. It was just tough. I was a part of the team, but I wasn’t at the same time. Luckily I was friends with all the guys on the team and they helped me through it, so I’m happy to be here and have a new page in life.”

HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH IT?

“I just worked my ass off everyday knowing my opportunity would come and it would present itself, and I wanted to make sure that I’d ready when it happened. Just every day, working hard with the coaches on the staff they still cared for me. Just making sure I was ready for this opportunity.”

HARD TO KEEP POSITIVE MENTALITY?

“I just tried to remind myself what my goal was, and just realize that this wouldn’t be the situation I would be in for a long time.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

“I wouldn’t change anything about what I did in Philly. Everything happens for a reason and I’m happy every time I experience this – the highs and lows – I learned a ton from being there.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN THERE?

“I learned so much, but probably the biggest thing the business aspect of this. I think just being in that environment you get to realize that, especially with me not playing and the trade and all that went into it… I learned a lot about the business side.”

DID YOU EVER IMAGINE PLAYING WITH D’ANGELO?

“I thought about it a ton. I’ve been playing with D’Angelo for a while. We grew up playing against each other – same high school class, same draft class. He’s actually the first person to call me when I got traded. We’re just very excited to get on the court together, you never would’ve thought the number two and number three draft picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said everything happens for a reason.”

ON PLAYING TOGETHER

“He has to get healthy and I have to get acclimated with the team, but it’s hard not to think about. I’m excited and I know he’s excited. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the guys on the team, I know they’re all young and hungry. They’ve been playing well and I’m happy to be here.”

SIMILAR PATH AS DLO?

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove. I know he’s working his ass off rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove.”

On Philly situation and what didn’t work:

“I think the obvious things were just how many people we had at my position. When I first got drafted there we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team. It just never really was the right fit. Luckily my rookie year I was able to play a lot. I was able to learn a lot about the NBA and how it goes. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.”

On Atkinson’s role for him:

“He hasn’t really told me about my role yet. Today’s only my first practice with the team, but I did get on the court with him yesterday to shoot around and go through some of the plays, but we still haven’t specified what my role would be.”

On personal expectations or goals for himself like starting:

“I don’t want to put any of that out there, but just being on the court, that’s my goal. I wasn’t playing at all in Philly, so just to have an opportunity to be on the court and help this team that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

On fitting in Kenny’s offense:

“I’m not sure yet. I’m going to fit in whatever way he wants me to. Today’s my first day of practice. I’m sure I’ll find out in the next coming days what he expects from me and I’m ready to do whatever he wants.”

On the team’s style of play:

“I haven’t played against them this year, but just watching them play they’re the fastest team in the NBA in terms of pace. They just play free. A bunch of young guys out there just playing free, playing together, and that’s something I’m excited to be a part of.”

On expanding his range to 3PT:

“I have tried to extend my range and that’s one of the things I heard about Brooklyn, how good they are at developing players. I’m really excited for that. Even yesterday, just being out there with coach Kenny, he was actually hands on and the one instructing the entire workout. That was different for me. Usually it’s the assistant coaches who handle that, but to see the head coach out there working with me, helping me shoot, running with me, guarding me a few times, it was different. I enjoyed it.”

On post scoring drawing attention for shooters:

“That’s something I’m accustomed to. Being in the post and if I’m doubled, passing out to shooters. That’s the way I’ve always played. I think in that regard it’s something normal for me, but I’ve been working on trying to extend my game and I’m going to everything necessary to help this team succeed.”

On becoming a two-way player:

“That’s something that I’m buying into. They’re going to help me with that. I’ll find out their defensive schemes and what they expect from me, but I’m buying into whatever they want me to do. Full fledge, I’m all in.”

On losing weight and change in his diet:

“I took a vegan diet. I’m on a vegan diet now. I started that this past summer. The reason I did it is just health benefits. My knee was swelling up a lot and I couldn’t really get my knee to 100 percent, so I tried cutting out dairy and the swelling went down and I went full fledge on it and I feel great. It’s something I’m going to keep doing.”

Did you feel any different on the court (after your vegan diet?)

“It’s a life thing but I feel lighter. I lost like 20 pounds just off the vegan diet so, I feel great.”

“What do you weigh now?

“250, 255.”

How’s the knee?

“The knee’s great. I haven’t had any issues with the knee. There’s no swelling, I think it’s all due to me taking care of myself and obviously the diet.”

How long do you think it’ll take you to get up to speed with a new system?

“Hopefully not too long. I did everything I can. Like I said, I was preparing. I was just learning the pace of this team and the plays, and stuff like that. So hopefully it doesn’t take too long, I think I’m ready, but I’ll find out today at practice if they expect me to play soon or if they kind of want to just ease me into it.”

Have they not practiced today?

“Nah, I practiced today, yesterday I just came in with the coach. It was me, the coaches and Nik (Stauskas) as well.”

Question about his game and concerns about it?

“I mean, I’m not a perfect player. I’m 21. There’s things that I need to work on and I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

Anybody you’ve leaned on while you weren’t playing?

“Yeah, there was a lot of people. Coach K was one of the guys that I talked to often. He’d call and check on me. My dad obviously. My two dogs that I live with – those are my two best friends. There are a lot of people, I’ve had a great circle helping me through these past few months.”

Things he’s learned about the past (speeding ticket, etc), night club incident:

“I wouldn’t say I’ve learned anything. Speeding is obviously illegal, I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. Can’t really say I learned anything because you know going on, that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes but, (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Have you gotten a chance to explore Brooklyn and see what’s out here?

“Not really, I went home shopping a little bit yesterday. Still looking. Like I said, I have two dogs, so that’s going to be the biggest challenge for me is trying to make sure they’re comfortable. But I would come up to New York all the time and take the train and … just to be in the city. I’m excited to be here.”

EASIER TO COME TO NEW PLACE WITH STAUSKAS:

“Yeah, it’s definitely easier, but I do know some of the guys on the team. Me and D’Angelo have a relationship, and I’m close with Rondae who is somebody I played USA basketball and stuff like that. They’re all young guys. I’ve pretty much seen them just in passing through basketball camps and playing against them and stuff like that. But having somebody like Nik that I’m coming over with and he kind of went through the same thing I did, which is not playing. So we’re excited to be here.”

DID NIK HAVE ANY INSIGHT TO NETS FROM CARIS:

“No, not necessarily. Just the things I’ve always heard, which is how much the staff cares for their players and the development part of it, how they really take time to develop the players. Like I said, coach Kenny was out there with me yesterday doing the drills. He was in charge of all that. That was the things I heard and just being here I saw that right away.”

AS SUCCESSFUL AS YOU WERE IN PAST, HOW MUCH HAVE PAST 18 MONTHS MOTIVATED YOU TO PROVE PEOPLE WRONG:

“I feel really motivated right now, and I’ve always been motivated. Like you say, I was the No. 1 player in high school and then go on to Duke and win a national championship and first-team all-rookie my rookie year. Then, I got injured and not really getting a chance to play this year, but I’m ready. I have a chip on my shoulder. This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

FEEL THINGS WERE UNFAIR BECAUSE THEY WERE BEYOND CONTROL?

“I wouldn’t call it unfair. It was just new to me. I got injured, and then coming back, I don’t think I was 100 percent. I kind of rushed myself back just because we had Nerlens (Noel) there and I knew we had Joel (Embiid) coming back. So, I kind of jumped right on the court because I didn’t want to lose my position and my spot. I didn’t take care of myself the right way. I think I should have taken more time out before jumping on the court last year.”

HAVE YOU SAT DOWN WITH KENNY AND SEAN AND WAS THERE A MESSAGE?

“Not really. Actually, I met Sean today for the first time. Right now, they’re letting me know they’re excited to have me here and I’m excited to be here. They haven’t really given me a particular message or what my role is going to be or what they expect from me. I’m sure they will today.”

HOPE TO PLAY VS WASHINGTON?

“Oh yeah, I’ve been sitting down long enough. I definitely hope to play, but we’ll see if they want me to play right away or if they want to ease me into it. But I’m definitely ready and I’m tired of sitting.”

—— NIK STAUSKAS ——

“I haven’t really talked to coach too much with coach yet about what my role is going to be with the team or what to expect early on. For me I’m just happy with a new change of scenery. I get a chance to press the reset button. I’m just looking to come in here and get better every day. The first thing i noticed coming in here is how big they are on player development, and just getting better every day. That’s something that I truly believe in, something that’s helped me get to this point in my career. So hopefully I can continue doing that.”

On talk wIth Jahlil and ankle injury

“I think both of us were pretty excited. Especially Jahlil, he had been going through a lot for the last two years, and he had kinda asked to be traded. So I know for him he was really excited to get a new opportunity. And for myself, I kind of hit a roadblock this year. For the last month, I was dealing with injury and I kind of fell out of the rotation. So for myself I felt like it was a good opportunity to have a new start.”

Injury?

“I had an ankle injury”

On relationship w/Caris

“I’ve stayed in touch a little bit with Caris, but I didn’t know too much about how the organization ran. From when I got here last couple of days talking to Caris, all he says is first-class organization on and off the court. And that’s something that I’m excited to be a part of. But Caris and I go back to the Michigan days. We were very close. We were roommates for 2 full years, so we spent a lot of time together, on and off the court. So I feel like we’re pretty close.

“I think it’s good just to come in and be familiar with someone, not just complete strangers. To have someone that I’m comfortable with that I’ve been friends with for awhile that’s always good. And then on the court, I already feel like we have some chemistry in past years.”

On workout w/Atkinson & Jah

“All 3 of us worked together yesterday morning. They said they got back from Mexico City pretty late. He was in here yesterday morning and we got a good workout in.”

On shooting 3s in Nets offense

“I’m very excited. From talking with coach Atkinson, the offense that they run here, I’m very suitable for that. It’s something that I’m comfortably with. When I first came here, I can’t remember who it was, someone told me ‘shoot to kill.’ And I think that’s a good motto to live by. I’m very excited to get involved in that.”

On hands-on coaching in Brooklyn

“Definitely. I love coach Brown in Philadelphia, but it was definitely a different vibe in Philly where coach Brown wasn’t as hands on in terms of skill development. That was more to the assistant coaches and the rest of the coaching staff. So for our first day here, for Kenny to spend an hour on the court just taking us through skills and drills, it was eye-opening for us just because that’s not something we’re used to in Philly.”

On competition at his position

“I think with the NBA in general, it’s always going to be competitive. I think no matter where you end up, you’re always going to be competing against someone for a job. So the sooner you can wrap your head around that, the easier it’s gonna be. I know the guards they have here are very talented. And even with D’Angelo and Jeremy, those guys are out with injury but those are 2 guards that are very talented. Every day you have to compete for your job, you have to show up and work hard and hope for the best after that.”

On defense

“Every coach in the league is gonna stress defense. Not many coaches are gonna sit there and say you don’t have to play defense. That’s kinda to be expected. So far, that first workout we had with coach was mainly just going over the offensive concepts so we can get a feel for how the offense works. I’m sure over the next couple days we’re gonna dive into the defensive concepts and what they’re looking for.”

How long until you get regular minutes?

“I have no idea at this point. Haven’t really had those conversations yet. But whenever they feel ready to play me, I’ll be ready. i’ve been working and i’ll be ready when my number’s called.”

On Okafor’s new chance

“Just being with him for the last two years, I know he was frustrated with the situation in Philadelphia. Obviously he’s a very talented player, he was the No. 3 pick in the draft for a reason. So the fact that he wasn’t playing, I know it was really tough for him. So now I wish nothing but the best for him. I hope he gets an opportunity to play here and really showcase himself. Because I’ve seen him over his rookie year, whether it’s in practice, he’s a talented, talented basketball player who’s definitely deserving of a spot in this league.”