The Happy New Year injury report took an unexpected turn Monday when Kenny Atkinson casually mentioned that Jahlil Okafor “should” make his Brooklyn Nets home debut on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That would be the second game of the Nets five-game home stand.
“He’s close. I’d expect to see him against Minnesota,” Atkinson said before the Magic game. “I think we’ll start to get him some minutes. He’s been doing a phenomenal job getting ready physically with our assistant coaches learning what we’re doing. Collectively we feel like he’s ready to get some minutes.”
Okafor’s only taste of action since arriving in Brooklyn was on December 15, when he scored 10 points in 22 minutes in a blowout loss at Toronto. From then on, the decision was made (mutually) to keep him out so he can get better conditioned and fit into Atkinson’s motion offense.
“It’s not going to be 48 minutes right off the bat,” Atkinson added regarding how much we’ll see of Okafor. “We’ll build him up and evaluate where he is physically and game-wise. Like anybody, you’ve got to earn it with play. Let’s see it in small doses and hopefully build him up to bigger minutes.”
So, It appears that Jah will soon be freed. Finally.
In more 2015 NBA Draft news, D’Angelo Russell is progressing, according to Atkinson. He’s been out since mid-November following arthroscopic right knee surgery. Russell and Okafor, who were taken at Nos. 2 and 3 in that Draft, have yet to play together with the Nets. Their last collaboration was in 2016 when they played for the Team USA Select Team against the US Olympic Team.
Sunday night, there was a flurry of DLo news when several lip-reading Nets fans thought they saw Russell use the words “two weeks” in a post-game conversation with Kyrie Irving following the Celtics game. The conversation was caught by YES Network cameras, but alas, there was not accompanying audio.
DLo could’ve meant he’ll be ready in two weeks ... or he could’ve meant that they’ll be going bowling in two weeks... no one knows.
Atkinson claims he did not see the video, and says there’s no timetable for the star guard.
“No I did not see that,” said Atkinson. “Players have their own idea. I think if you ask D’Angelo, he’d say ‘I’m ready now.’ I think as a group we talk to him, I know he’s anxious. I was with him in Miami in the weight room. He’s on a heck of a program, he’s working his tail off. There’s no timetable right now. When we have specifics, we’ll give it to you. But (he’s) progressing positively.”
At the very least, Jah will be freed on Wednesday. As for DLo... that’s a decision still to come.
- Jahlil Okafor expected to play Wednesday against T-Wolves - Brian Heyman - Newsday
- The Nets are almost ready to roll out Jahlil Okafor again - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- BROOKLYN NETS' KENNY ATKINSON: JAHLIL OKAFOR WILL PLAY AGAINST THE TIMBERWOLVES - Alex Labidou - Brooklyn Nets