Soon, Jah will be freed, officially.
But for now, Jahlil Okafor (and Nik Stauskas) will work and get acclimated to the Brooklyn Nets’ in all aspects.
It’s early. In fact, it’s only been a few days. Regardless, Okafor insists that he’s “loving every second” of his time in Brooklyn so far. The Nets have made him feel welcomed, and Okafor feels it. He discussed his arrival and welcome on Wednesday, his second practice with the team.
“They just want to see me put the effort in. They’re totally invested in me, and that feels great,” Okafor said. “I came from Philadelphia to be a part of the organization where they’re all invested in you. It’s a great feeling for a player and I’m ready to work – whatever they want me to do I’m all in.”
“I feel like I got drafted all over again,” he continued. “Just meeting new people, new faces – they’re really invested in me. That just makes me feel wanted, it makes me feel a part of this team.”
Maybe he’s sprung, but it follows the trend voiced by other additions who’ve arrived on Brooklyn soil … or hardwood in this case.
But for the near 7-footer, it wasn’t like he didn’t feel the love in Philadelphia. It was just that everyone involved in the situation just knew that it was time.
“I just wasn’t playing and I wasn’t a part of the team’s future, I was just kind of there,” he said bluntly. “But not to knock that staff, they cared for me, the love me and I love them too, but at some point you do kind of are on the backburner.
“You’re not playing, they’re worried about the guys they’re putting on the floor and I wasn’t a part of that group. A lot of times I was just there watching. But it’s still all love and respect. They would still talk to me and if I wanted to get some individual work in, they would still be there for me for that. This team is just more invested in me than when I was over there.”
Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson offered some early impressions of the former third overall pick prior to Tuesday’s win against the Washington Wizards. On Wednesday, Atkinson, who had more than 12 and a half minutes with the 21-year-old center, said that he just likes being around the guy, first and foremost.
“I like being around him, that’s important,” Atkinson said of “Jah.” “I like that he’s polite, I like that he’s courteous, he’s got a nice demeanor; I like that he’s very business-like. Young guys can be a little loose. I think he’s very serious, very focused, so that’s great, that’s where it starts, what’s your demeanor like? As I get to know him day to day I’ll get more information.”
Okafor essentially came up with D’Angelo Russell, who he was drafted behind in 2015. The newest Net offered some parallels in how they have been cast-off by their previous teams and given a second chance in Brooklyn.
Russell began to exploit his second wind before injury, and will likely do so gain upon his return. Okafor is hoping to mirror some of the same success his good friend found, but in due time.
“I’ve known D’Angelo for a while and even just looking at him you can see how happy he is to be here,” said Okafor. “I think he feels the same thing that I’m feeling now, they’re invested in him and they really want to see him do well; he’s extremely excited. It seems like he’s had a great experience, that makes you more excited.”
“They were down in Mexico, for him to call me while he was on a vacation, it was cool, it was cool. That’s my guy and we’re excited to get out there.”
Lastly, Okafor also offered some observations of the Nets’ play last night, along with brief observations on what the Nets have communicated with him regarding his fit.
“Just getting used to the pace, that’s the main thing,” Okafor said, regarding what he’s been told. “Especially with me having not really having played at all this year to jump right on the court to play with the number-one pace team in the league might be a challenge.”
“They played free, man, they played together – it was really fun to watch,” he continued. “They get up and down, they defend hard, it’s like a family out there. I can wait to get out there.”
Evidently, as demonstrated by the “Ok-a-for!” chants flowing throughout Barclays Center last night, Brooklyn can’t wait either.
- Jahlil Okafor says Nets invested in him and he feels wanted - Laura Albanese - Newsday
- Jahlil Okafor Gets a Second Chance, and Nets Get a Bargain - Harvey Araton - New York Times