Jahlil Okafor on DNPs: 'It's funky for all of us'

Jahlil Okafor on DNPs: 'It's funky for all of us'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor knows the situation.

There are only so many minutes to go around among himself, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, and someone is going to come up short. That person, as of late, has been Okafor.

“Obviously it's a funky situation. It's funky for all of us,” Okafor said Tuesday. “Right now I'm the person who's sitting out, so obviously not [the position I want to be in]. I know I’m not the type of player that’s a DNP, but that’s what it is right now. 

“Coach (Brett) Brown has been phenomenal with communicating with me, and I know in the long run I’m going to be fine. I just try to come in here every day and work as hard as I can.”

Okafor registered DNPs the last two games while Embiid started and Noel took on a sixth-man role. Riding the bench is a stark contrast for the 2015 third overall pick, who had been averaging 22.4 minutes per game this season. 

“I think for the short term, I think it’s wise and mature for him to accept it," Brown said. "When you really crawl in and say what do you want out of your career, what do you want to be, he’s not going to tell you he wants to be sixth man and I don’t blame him.”

On Monday, Okafor participated in a workout for low-minute players. He also spent time at the training complex putting up extra shots. 

"The roles that people accept versus the roles that people are given are kind of different," Brown said. "To date, I feel like he has handled it like an adult, like a pro, and his spirit has not taken a dent. I intend on trying to keep him believing in himself.”

Okafor said he and Brown have kept open dialogue during this shift in playing time. 

“I know that he doesn’t have to tell me anything,” Okafor said. “He could just go out there and coach, I could just be on the bench unaware of anything. He’s done an amazing job. I’m appreciative of that.”

While Okafor has not received a timeframe of how long this situation will continue, he expects to play Saturday against the Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back. Embiid does not play in consecutive games, which creates an opportunity for Okafor. The Sixers have four sets of back-to-backs this month alone. 

“I see a very clear path in the immediate future where we keep his spirit up and there is an end game to why he’s coming in late last night,” Brown said. “There’s light at the end of his tunnel because of that Joel back-to-back situation especially.”

As Okafor watches games from the bench, he doesn't get caught up in the concept of his teammates' "taking" his minutes. The close-knit frontcourt has remained supportive of one another while minutes fluctuate from big to big.

"It makes it a lot easier knowing I have guys playing in front of me that I genuinely like," Okafor said. "You can’t really get mad at them or anything like that because you guys are really good friends. I’m seeing Nerlens do his thing, it makes me happy to see any one of your friends doing well. It makes it a lot easier having guys that you like."

NBA Playoffs: Nene, Rockets take 3-1 series lead on Thunder

NBA Playoffs: Nene, Rockets take 3-1 series lead on Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder (see full recap).

Cavs hold off Pacers, earn sweep into 2nd round
INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James made a 3-pointer with 68 seconds left Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers hung on for a 106-102 series-clinching victory at Indiana.

James finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds as he became the first player under the current playoff format to win 21 straight first-round games. He also set a league record with his 10th career playoff sweep.

It sure wasn't easy. After taking a 96-83 lead with 9:29 to go, the Cavs found themselves in a 102-100 deficit with 1:31 left.

But James answered with the go-ahead 3-pointer and Cleveland sealed the win on James' free throw with 1 second left.

Lance Stephenson scored 22 points and Paul George added 15 but missed a 3-pointer that could have forced overtime in the closing seconds. It's the first time the Pacers have lost a series 4-0 in their NBA history (see full recap).

Thomas, Celtics top Bulls to tie series, 2-2
CHICAGO -- Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists (see full recap).

NBA Notes: Bulls' Rajon Rondo fined $25k for tripping incident

NBA Notes: Bulls' Rajon Rondo fined $25k for tripping incident

CHICAGO -- The NBA has fined Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo $25,000 for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3 of their first-round series.

The league announced the fine hours before Game 4 tips off on Sunday.

The incident happened with 31.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter on Friday.

Crowder jawed at the Bulls' bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo -- sidelined by a broken right thumb -- extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

The top-seeded Celtics went on to win 104-87 after dropping the first two games at home. Rondo said afterward he was simply stretching his leg.

ROCKETS: Beverly fined for postgame incident in OKC
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The NBA has fined Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a fan after Game 3 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off Sunday.

Beverley had two incidents with the same fan Friday night in Oklahoma City. Video shows Beverley falling in front of the fan in the first half of the game, then getting up and pointing at him before teammate Nene redirected him.

Beverley also exchanged words with the fan after the game. The NBA specifically mentioned the postgame incident as the one for which Beverley was fined.

Houston leads the series 2-1. Beverley is the primary player responsible for guarding NBA scoring champion Russell Westbrook.