As trade rumors swirl, Sixers' Okafor, Saric shine in Rising Stars
NEW ORLEANS - Jahlil Okafor is doing his best to enjoy this weekend. With the NBA trade deadline approaching on Thursday, the 76ers center knows he'll be involved in more discussions. As a result, Okafor is aware that he'll probably have a change of address come this upcoming Friday.
NEW ORLEANS - Jahlil Okafor is doing his best to enjoy this weekend.
With the NBA trade deadline approaching on Thursday, the 76ers center knows he'll be involved in more discussions. As a result, Okafor is aware that he'll probably have a change of address come this upcoming Friday.
But for now, it was all about enjoying the festivities at the NBA All-Star weekend and the Mardi Gras parades here in The Big Easy.
Good luck with that.
Okafor politely answered questions Friday about possibly teaming up with Anthony Davis for the New Orleans Pelicans and playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls. New Orleans and Chicago are two of the teams the Sixers were in advanced trade talks with recently.
The second-year veteran was even asked during his media availability for Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge if he looked around New Orleans since it is a possible destination.
"I really don't know what's going to happen," said Okafor, whose United States squad suffered a 150-141 loss to the World team at Smoothie King Center. The game ended too late for this edition. "Honestly, I checked the city out, because it is in the back of my head. But I'm trying to do my best to enjoy this weekend."
He enjoyed his second appearance in the annual showcase that pits 10 first-and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 counterparts from around the world.
Two of his teammates, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, were selected to the world team. Embiid didn't play because of a left knee bone bruise and slightly torn meniscus.
Jamal Murray, of the World team and Denver Nuggets, finished with game highs of 36 points and 11 assists en route to being named MVP. The rookie guard from Canada shot 13 of 19 shooting, including making 9 of 14 threes. Saric had 17points on 7-for-10 shooting (3 of 5 on threes) to go with five rebounds and four assists. Okafor was credited with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with two rebounds.
There was a chance that Embiid and Saric would have been the only Sixers representatives. Okafor was expected to represent another team in the game.
That's because he didn't play last Saturday and Monday because of on-going trade talks.
While trade talks continue, the team is not as close to trading the second-year center as it seemed to be in recent days.
He had been the subject of trade discussions with the Pelicans, Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and reportedly the Portland Trail Blazers, among others. Okafor said there were 10 or 11 teams involved.
With the Pelicans, he would be paired in the front line with Davis. New Orleans would get the scoring post player it covets. The move would also enable them to move Davis, an NBA all-star, back to power forward from the center spot.
"That would be a lot of fun," Okafor said. "Me and Anthony are both from Chicago. He is somebody that I played against in high school, somebody that I consider my friend.
"I would enjoy playing with him if that was the possibility. But like I said, I'm just unsure about what is going to happen."
Okafor would also love playing for the Bulls. He pointed out Friday that he grew up a Chicago fan.
"I wouldn't be mad at being home in my home city," he said. "But like I said, I really have no idea what is going to happen."
He could find out his fate soon.
Embiid is confident that Okafor will be successful wherever he ends. The center called his teammate one of the league's best low-post scorers. He added that he's improving every day "offensively, defensively" and on learning how to play with teammates.
But those improvements aren't the things that stand out to Embiid.
"I give him a lot of credit for acting like a professional when you look at what he's gone through in the past couple of weeks," he said of Okafor dealing with trade talks and everything that came with them. "If I was in his place, I don't know what I [would] do, honestly. But he's been such a good person about it, a good pro about it. I admire him."