Jahlil Okafor received his fifth DNP-CD as a Brooklyn Net on Sunday night, one game after playing 23 minutes in Toronto. He was expected to make his home debut and told reporters how he was “so excited” to play at Barclays Center.
Well, Sunday wasn’t the day. And head coach Kenny Atkinson gave two reasons why after the 109-97 loss.
"I talked to Jahlil. I had a great conversation with him. We need to help him get in better condition, first off” Atkinson said. “We need to integrate him more into the system.”
It’s most likely Atkinson’s decision but there were certainly mixed messages here, leaving open the suggestion that Sean Marks or the organization as a whole decided how to play things.
Okafor played 23 minutes against the Toronto Raptors. Granted, it was a blowout game in which he played a large chunk of his minutes in garbage time. He was noticeably gassed in the final six minutes, as you would expect, after playing just 25 minutes total on the season.
But again, the expectation was that he’d play and it never happened. How does one go from playing 23 minutes in one game to zero minutes in the next? Did his lack of conditioning in the Raptors game surprise?
As for integrating him into the system. Fine. The Nets DO play at the fastest pace in the NBA and that coincides with the whole conditioning predicament. That being said, Nik Stauskas, traded along with Okafor, logged 15 minutes in Sunday’s loss. He’s brand new to the system the same way Okafor is. And he played only 45 minutes in Philly.
The Nets have preached patience since day one. Perhaps expectations should be tampered down a bit now, from fans especially.
This isn’t the main issue. The main issue is the mixed message. Even Mike Fratello, in his post-game comments, seemed mystified about the rationale, mentioning the need to boost Okafor’s confidence.
So what happens next? Apparently, back to the waiting game for Jahlil.
“I think it's going to take some time,” said Atkinson. “I'm not going to give you a date, but it is a strategic plan, just like we have done with all our guys, integrating guys into the team. It is going to take some time."
- Jahlil Okafor doesn’t get off bench in Nets’ loss to Pacers - Brian Heyman - Newsday
- Nets want Jahlil Okafor in better shape before he plays again - Brian Lewis - New York Post