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Hitting bottom and bouncing back: Jahlil Okafor talks about his battle with anxiety

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Sacramento Kings v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Not long after he was traded to the Nets last December, Jahlil Okafor met with Dr. Paul Groenewal, the Nets team psychologist, who advised the 22-year-old that he should address his anxiety, seek treatment.

No thanks, he told Groenewal as beat writers Greg Logan and Brian Lewis report. Thanks but no.

“When I first heard about it, I pushed it to the side because I’d never heard about it, my family never talks about it. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but it was something I never even thought about, so when they first brought it to me I thought it was BS.

“Then I finally just read about it, and I heard Kevin Love talk about it. I’m reading this article and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s something that I deal with.’ I’m happy that I did it and I wish I would’ve done it sooner. Like I said, I’m 22 and I’m still learning.”

Now with the undefeated Pelicans and still recovering a bit from a preseason injury, he’s in a better place. He hit bottom and is, hopefully, on his way back.

Okafor certainly harbors no ill will towards Brooklyn. He told Michael Scotto a couple of weeks back that being with the Nets was a “good experience.” He particularly enjoyed his teammates. “It’s definitely an experience I’m grateful for. All those guys there, they were great to me,” he told Scotto. And he says he still has relationships with D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris.

But after last season, essentially after hitting bottom, he and the Nets went different ways. Okafor sought help as the Nets had suggested and devoted himself to an off-season regimen in Miami. He feels better than he has in a long time.

“And it goes farther than just basketball,” he told Logan and Lewis. “There’s stuff off the court, dealing with family, the stuff I dealt with growing up. All of that came out when I started talking to somebody. It felt good to get it off my chest. It’s been very beneficial for me.”

So far, it’s been a slow process, but as he noted, he’s still only 22.