Regular inclusions in the trade rumor mill have not soured Jahlil Okafor’s taste for playing on the Philadelphia 76ers.
He still loves them.
“I have, I hear trade rumors and stuff like that, realizing that having a new scenario, think it might be better than what it is now. When it comes to the NBA, this is all I know is wearing a Sixers uniform. And the city’s been great to me, the coaches have been great to me, and my teammates have been great. So I couldn’t be happier.”
People are going to scoff, and make jokes, but this is a pro’s pro answer. And Okafor probably isn’t even lying.
Would he like to figure more prominently into the team’s plans? No do doubt. Even with Jahlil Okafor gone, he ranks as the third big in the rotation, behind Joel Embiid and Richaun Holmes. He might even be the fourth wheel, depending on how much Philly plans to use Amir Johnson at the 5.
Too often, though, we get wrapped up in the rumor mill and playing time. Those elements are a part of the NBA, but there’s also a behind-the-scenes layer some seldom recognize. Okafor’s teammates (probably) aren’t trashing him in the locker room or bellowing out hypothetical trades in his direction. The organization (likely) isn’t telling him he’s worthless and useless. The working environment is (no doubt) more positive than that.
At the end of the day, Okafor is 21 years old, enjoying the day-to-day perks of playing for an NBA franchise while taking home nearly $5 million next season. His life outside the margins is pretty damn good. The question is: Will he ever get a chance inside them, particularly when he’s just two years out from restricted free agency? And if he does, will it be in Philly or somewhere else?