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Kenny Atkinson didn’t play Jahlil Okafor up 40 points on the Wizards, and it’s OK

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Atkinson doesn’t want to rush Okafor into the rotation. Brooklyn has a plan in place, and he’s on board with it.

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Twenty-five. Thirty. Thirty-five. Forty.

As the Nets continued to run up the score in their 119-84 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday night, Jahlil Okafor continued to watch from the bench. And as head coach Kenny Atkinson ignored the fans chants for Okafor in garbage time; it became clear the third-year big man wasn’t going to make his return to the floor.

Not on Friday.

“I heard it, and I respect the fans. I understand they want to see him,” Atkinson said after Brooklyn’s win. “But I think we’ve stated from the beginning there’s a plan for him, and we’re gonna stick with the plan. It was tempting, but again I think we want to put him in the best position to succeed. So we’re gonna stick with the plan, and I think that’s a little more down the line.”

Brooklyn traded Philadelphia for Okafor and Nik Stauskas on Dec. 7, and while Stauskas is averaging 10 points per game off the bench — including a 22-point Nets debut and a 15-point game against the Wizards on Friday — Okafor has only seen action once. It was a 10-point, four-rebound affair in a 33-point loss to the Raptors.

"We needed kind of like a barometer of where he is,” Atkinson said of Okafor in mid-December. “Toronto gave us some information.”

But unlike The Process that failed him in Philadelphia, Okafor is on board with the plan Atkinson and the Nets have for him in stop No. 2 of his early career. It will be a slow, methodical task in Brooklyn, but he hopes it will bear fruit in the form of effective playing time down the road.

“I hear the fans, and it’s feels good to be wanted and appreciated,” Okafor told NetsDaily. “I’m on board with the plan we have in place. It might take some time, but I’m working and we’ll get there.”