Sixers suspend Okafor for two games
NEW YORK - The 76ers suspended Jahlil Okafor on Wednesday, hours after a second video surfaced on TMZ.com of him fighting with a heckler on a Boston street in the early hours Thursday.
The 6-foot-11, 265-pounder missed the game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden and also will sit out the game Saturday against Denver at the Wells Fargo Center. The 19-year-old rookie will lose $82,000 of his $4.6 million salary for this season. Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie declined to comment.
The Sixers were not sure whether the NBA would further punish Okafor, who has been involved in four troublesome incidents since training camp.
"We show him tough love," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the team's suspension. "We understand that he's ours. We have to help him and help him we will."
In the second video, Okafor is seen walking down a Boston street in the early hours Thursday while being heckled. He then trades insults, saying, "We got money . . . you broke-ass [expletive] . . . Money," while his friends attempt to hold him back and direct him away from the hecklers.
Okafor runs into the street, yelling, "What's up, then? What's up, then?" to a heckler and throws a punch at him. Moments later, the video shows a man knocked to the ground. He has a gash on the left side of his face. As the man lay face-down on the sidewalk, someone yells to him, "You disrespected one of the best players in the NBA." The heckler's friends keep saying, "Jahlil Okafor."
"He actually told me [on Thursday] what had happened," Brown said. "The further details that came out surprised me. He told us [in] sketchy [details] that he was in a situation that he regretted. As far as the play-by-play of what happened, he did not go into that. Today we learn more."
The accuser, who did not want to be identified, is threatening a lawsuit. His lawyer, Michelle Newton, told TMZ the victim is a 27-year-old executive assistant and Boston resident. Newton told the website that her client is certain that Okafor was the person who knocked him out. She said he needed 10 stitches to close the gash.
Newton had yet to file the paperwork for a lawsuit, but one could be pending if Okafor and his accuser don't settle out of court.
Officer Rachel McGuire of the Boston Police Department said in a telephone interview Wednesday that police were unaware of a second video. She encouraged the accuser to file a police report or show police the video.
The police are investigating Okafor's involvement in another fight that morning outside the Storyville Nightclub in Boston's Back Bay, caught on video hours after the Sixers' Nov. 25 loss to the Boston Celtics.
In another incident, a gun was pointed at Okafor's head on Oct. 4 in a dispute near Second and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia, five people told The Inquirer. The suspect got away, according to a U.S. Park Service police report.
In an unrelated incident, Okafor also received two citations after being pulled over for driving 108 m.p.h. on the Ben Franklin Bridge. He was cited for reckless driving and driving at an excessive rate of speed on Oct. 19.
The Sixers confirmed that Okafor will be accompanied by a bodyguard when he goes out from now on.
Brown was asked why the team had not suspended the rookie sooner, especially considering that Wednesday's video was at least the third off-the-court altercation he has been involved in.
The coach said the organization sat down with Okafor and felt that he wasn't hiding any information. As a result, the Sixers felt there was no need to suspend the center.
"With this additional information, we . . . decided to do what we had done," Brown said.
But does the coach feel as if Okafor lied to him? He indicated that the player did not reveal all of the details from Thursday morning.
I don't," Brown said. "I feel like I'm looking at a 19-year-old kid that has all of a sudden come upon money and has been used to winning, has been used to being in the limelight. And all of the sudden, now you [give] that 19-year-old freedom [as] an NBA player, travel around to different cities, [and] things like this can happen. And I think because of the competitive nature, things have happened to Jahlil."
Brown said it was too early to say how the Sixers would go about helping Okafor, who may be in need of counseling. He did say they are looking at various options.
"We all make mistakes," injured point guard Tony Wroten said. "The good thing about it is he knows what he's done. He's knows to learn from it. Me and one of the guys that's real close to Jah, we talk all the time. We're behind him in everything and we are going to continue to be behind him and can't wait to get him back on the court."