Jahlil Okafor addresses trade rumors: It 'doesn't bother me'

Jahlil Okafor addresses trade rumors: It 'doesn't bother me'

MIAMI -- Second NBA season, second go-around with trade rumors. Jahlil Okafor knows how to handle the buzz by now. 

Okafor has been in the mix of trade talks since his rookie year. Last season, there was a logjam of centers with him and Nerlens Noel; this season, it has been further crowded with Joel Embiid in the starting spot. 

"I’ve been focusing on what I can control, and that’s being here," Okafor said after shootaround on Saturday. "I don’t get into the trade rumors and all that stuff."

The Bulls reportedly expressed interest in Okafor, according to CSNChicago.com, kicking off a month that will be filled with more buzz like this leading up to the trade deadline. 

“Trade rumors are something that’s going to be part of my life probably for as long as I’m in the NBA," Okafor said. "I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That’s being here on this team and trying to help this team win.”

There has never been a clearly defined role for Okafor. During his rookie season, the Sixers tried to find the best way to play him and Noel, both true centers, at the same time. One had to be out of position in order to accomplish this, and the pairing was filled with challenges. 

It didn’t get any more clarified this season. The Sixers have experimented with bringing Okafor off the bench, starting him in Embiid’s absence, and also starting him alongside Embiid. After the twin towers experiment didn’t pan out, Okafor fell out of the rotation as Brett Brown narrowed it down to 10 players. For the most part, he has been receiving minutes as a starter when Embiid is out. 

Okafor said those in his personal circle don’t bring up trade rumors with him. He also doesn’t use them as extra motivation. 

“I’m fueled enough just by I want to be great,” Okafor said. “I don’t look at it as a negative or I’m mad at anybody because of a rumor. That doesn’t bother me.”

The Sixers have maintained they are not in a rush to trade a big just for the sake of making a move. With so many bigs (don’t forget about Richaun Holmes, too), it is inevitable other teams will inquire. Brett Brown knows what the month of February can be like for the players.

“As the volume (of rumors) gets turned up, so does my volume,” Brown said. “It doesn’t waver. I don’t pivot at all on what I’ve been telling them -- I will do my best for you. I will coach you. We will put you in a position where you can grow and succeed. It’s part of my responsibility on a court. Obviously it’s partnership. 

"There are things that we need you to do that are, by in large, energy based. But once you give us that, we’ll help get you better. That could be with us, it could be with somebody else, but while you’re with me until somebody tells me otherwise, I’m giving you my best effort. They understand that. We communicate. I give those guys tremendous credit on how they’ve handled it.”

For Okafor, sticking with the words of his coach is helpful.

“He’s amazing at communicating with me,” Okafor said. "When he feels like he needs to say something with me dealing with trade rumors or whatever’s going on off the court, he always does a great job of letting me know and giving me advice. He’s been in the NBA for a while, so he lets me know it’s something that I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my career.”

Theoretical odds for a Sixers-Celtics playoff series are out

Theoretical odds for a Sixers-Celtics playoff series are out

If the NBA season resumes and goes directly to the playoffs, the Sixers would be the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and play the Boston Celtics. 

While there’s obviously uncertainty about what might be next for the NBA with the season currently suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, we can still analyze that matchup. Westgate SuperBook, in fact, released theoretical odds for all the playoff series that would take place if the 2019-20 season resumed and immediately went to a normal playoff format.

Sixers-Celtics is the most even series. There’s actually no favorite, as a wager of $110 on either team would win you $100. 

The Sixers took the regular-season series over Boston, 3-1, although the Celtics blew the Sixers out on Feb. 1. Joel Embiid struggled badly that night, shooting 1 of 11, but was excellent on Dec. 12 against the Celtics, posting 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Embiid’s decision-making when double teamed would likely be one of the keys to the series. 

Another factor that would seem worth considering is the Sixers’ dramatic home-road disparity. The team is 29-2 at home, best in the team, and 10-24 on the road, the worst mark of any team in playoff position. If games were to be played under modified conditions (without fans in attendance, at a neutral site, etc.), that wouldn’t come into play. These odds, however, do account both for how great the Sixers have been at Wells Fargo Center and how poor they’ve been away from it.

In theory, this hiatus could be helpful for the Sixers if it allows Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) to return to the court. 

If the Sixers got past the Celtics, they’d be slated to play the Raptors or Nets in Round 2. 

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Philadelphia athletes, Sixers managing partners join Ben Simmons’ ‘Philly Pledge’

Philadelphia athletes, Sixers managing partners join Ben Simmons’ ‘Philly Pledge’

The “Philly Pledge” picked up steam over the weekend.

Plenty of prominent Philadelphia athletes have joined the initiative, which was launched on Friday by Ben Simmons to encourage donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund to support coronavirus relief efforts.

Philabundance is a hunger relief organization, while the mission of the PHL COVID-19 Fund is to “help our nonprofit community navigate near-and longer-term challenges from COVID-19 and ensure that critical resources remain available for those in our community who need it most.”

Claude Giroux, Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and Tobias Harris are among the athletes who have joined.

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris, co-managing partner David Blitzer and the Sixers Youth Foundation have also made a “significant six-figure donation to Philabundance,” according to a Philabundance press release Monday. 

“The donation will be used to provide 20,000 boxes of food that will feed 160,000 people across the Philadelphia region during this critical time of need,” per the release. 

Simmons’ teammate Joel Embiid is donating $500,000 to coronavirus medical relief efforts

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