I had the pleasure of watching this kid for two seasons as he excelled at Whitney Young High School here in Chicago. Jahlil Okafor is a winner, a rare talent, and he has exhibited great patience as career in the NBA has stalled in the hands of Philadelphia 76ers front office. The recognitions speak for themselves.
- Chicago Sun-Times Basketball Player of the Year as a junior.
- Illinois Class 4A State Champion as a senior.
- 2014 Mr. Illinois Basketball
- McDonald’s High School All-American (Co-MVP)
- Jordan Brand Classic All-American (Co-MVP)
- 2015 ACC Player of the Year (Duke)
- 2015 United States Basketball Writers Association Freshman of the Year
- 2015 Consensus 1st Team All-American
- 2015 NCAA Champion (Duke)
- 2016 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
This is all before dropping 20lbs and regaining full health after undergoing knee surgery at the end of the last NBA season. His resilience has helped him overcome the passing of his mother and I really hope his determination never wavers. The potential is undeniable. Here is a web article featuring his story about overcoming tragedy and below is a new ESPN article by Adrian Wojnarowski regarding the conundrum in Philly. As a resident Chicagoan, avid Duke fan, and proponent for deserved opportunity, I am surely rooting for this kid and I believe his future is bright!
Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor‘s strange story drags on, but nothing changes. Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo makes rounds upon rounds of futile trade calls. Out of respect, coach Brett Brown refuses to insert Okafor into the garbage minutes of blowouts.
Time passes and Okafor waits.
He isn’t a part of the franchise’s present, nor its future. He was the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft and a member of the first-team All-NBA Rookie team, but that’s disappeared into the distance. The Sixers are undergoing a franchise renaissance, armed with young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
As for Okafor, he has been cast aside, a casualty of a process that has moved on without him.
“I would like for them to just send me somewhere where I can get an opportunity,” Okafor told ESPN. “I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me and I would just like to get an opportunity to play with a trade or a buyout. I just hope something happens quickly.
“This is my third year in the NBA, and I know it’s a business. I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but in talking to other people in the NBA, talking to retired players, one thing I’ve heard them say is that what’s going on with me isn’t right and they’ve never seen anything like this before.
“I know it’s business, but in my eyes, I don’t know if it’s good business.”
There are legitimate reasons why Colangelo hasn’t found a trade for Okafor. A year ago, those centered on questions about Okafor’s durability and knee surgery to end the 2015-16 season. This season, Okafor returned 20 pounds lighter, fitter and far more deft on his feet.
Colangelo’s asking price has steadily dropped for Okafor, from two first-round picks to a first and a solid player to where it stands now, a second-round pick, league sources said. As for the politics of giving up on the No. 3 overall pick, remember: Colangelo didn’t select Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 draft — his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, did.
“We appreciate the effort that [Okafor] has put forth, and other than a little frustration expressed recently, he’s been patient waiting for an opportunity to play,” Colangelo told ESPN. “I continue to explore opportunities with both Jahlil and [agent] Bill Duffy to find a more suitable spot for him.”
Colangelo resisted any trade proposal that cut into the Sixers’ $15.1 million in salary-cap space prior to Nov. 15, because he planned to use that as part of his contract extension and renegotiation offer to forward Robert Covington. That limited the Sixers to trades that would bring back only the equivalent of Okafor’s $5 million salary, or less.
Once Covington agreed to his deal, the declining of Okafor’s $6.2 million fourth-year contract option for the 2018-19 season further compromised the Sixers’ ability to trade him.
✅ Chris Paul joins forces with fellow All-Star James Harden in Houston.
Chris Paul provides a missing ingredient to Houston Rockets’ roster while James Harden remains face of franchise, Paul’s ability to lead will be instrumental to success.
James Harden is the face of the franchise and the Rockets will re-emphasize that later this summer when they give him another contract extension worth more dollars than he has whiskers on his chin.
He is the Rockets’ leading scorer, an offensive savant who can shoot, drive, swivel, dance, act or bully the ball into the bottom of the net all on his own.
He can find open teammates in traffic and set them up with open shots due to his willingness and uncanny ability to pass, not to mention that he draws defenders like metal filings to a magnet.
He will make you shake your head in wonderment one trip down the floor with a twisting, turning, hips-go-this-way-and-long-arm-the-other drive and make your eyes bug out of your head the next time with a step-back 3-pointer that might be launched from just over the county line.
But in five All-Star seasons in Houston what Harden has not been is the kind of transcendent player who lifts his team up to the next level as a true championship contender.
Enter Chris Paul, the best pure point guard in the traditional sense of the past decade, to duplicate many of the ball-handling and distributing tasks that Harden performed last season with numbers that made him a runner-up to Russell Westbrook in the MVP balloting.
Oh, let the mad scientist Mike D’Antoni worry about how to split the ball and the time and the roles to make it all work. The 2017 Coach of the Year has never met an offensive puzzle that he can’t solve and usually makes the tweaks or radical moves — i.e. Harden as full-time point guard — that are so off-the-wall brilliant and simple that you wonder why nobody else thought of them before.
How will James Harden, Chris Paul coexist?
Just figure that by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, Mad Mike will have the Rockets moving and scoring the ball at a rate that will test the limits of your calculator.
But the real test will be whether the Rockets are still alive in the playoffs when Memorial Day arrives in late May.
That’s where Paul comes in. If there’s a deeper reason for his presence in the Rockets’ lineup, it is to be the burr under the saddle that perhaps uncomfortably drives Harden to a loftier place.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey is thrilled to have the “league’s best two playmakers.”
General manager Daryl Morey, of course, is far from done with all of his wheeling and dealing attempts. He’ll be right there chasing Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry and maybe the ghost of George Mikan in his usual spaghetti-plate-against-the-wall style to find something that sticks.
That worked in 2013 when Morey convinced Dwight Howard to join the Rockets and got them to the Western Conference finals in 2015 after, coincidentally enough, Paul’s L.A. Clippers did a swan dive off a 3-1 series lead.
It was an unexpected playoff run that ended with Harden worn out and spent physically and emotionally, turning the ball over a record 12 times in the last game and dribbling himself right into the floor on the final possession. Then last season ended in a similarly dubious fashion for Harden when he no-showed at home against the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, not even taking his first shot until 18 minutes into the elimination Game 6.
The Harden and Howard partnership disintegrated beneath the weight of a passive-aggressive personality conflict that to this day neither will own up to publicly. Both wanted to be known as the leader, yet neither was/is capable.
Harden’s 2016-17 season of solo virtuosity ended with a 2-for-11, six-turnover flameout and a hurried sprint into summer leaving his teammates holding the bag and still not facing up to the questions about what happened. The image left was that he surrendered.
No one has ever accused Paul of surrender. Even though his own resume still does not include a single game played past the second round of the playoffs, his reputation on the court and in the locker room is as a bulldog, a martinet. He holds teammates responsible for missed assignments during games and in practices. His back pats and pep talks are outnumbered by his in-your-face confrontations on the court and chewing out of slackers in the locker room. Yes, he’ll probably mention it when Harden lets his man sail in for a layup.
For all the burden that will be unshouldered not having to start and finish so much of the offense, Harden will have to carry a different load of a teammate — a friend that he says he respects — expectations.
The Rockets can still call themselves Harden’s team, if it makes everybody feel good. But there’s a new boss that they can only hope makes him better.
Chris Paul provides a missing ingredient to Houston Rockets’ roster
While James Harden remains face of franchise, Paul’s ability to lead will be instrumental to success
Fran Blinebury | NBA.com
Jun 29, 2017 8:09 PM ET