Philadelphia 76ers

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 Notes: Underdog Isaiah Thomas now facing biggest challenge of career

NBA Notes: Underdog Isaiah Thomas now facing biggest challenge of career

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas' basketball journey is littered with decision-makers who have underestimated the diminutive guard.

He was selected last in the 2011 NBA draft coming out of Washington, and when he arrived in Boston he looked only to be a role player for the storied franchise. Thomas has had to prove his worth with every stop.

Now, following the biggest slight of his NBA career, he'll have to do it again.

All eyes will be watching how he rebounds after Tuesday's blockbuster trade . The Celtics sent the two-time All-Star packing from a franchise and city that he'd embraced with every ounce of his 5-foot-9 frame. He's now bound for Cleveland in exchange for a bigger star -- and what the Celtics believe is a better point guard for them -- in Kyrie Irving.

For all the praise Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge showered on Thomas in explaining what he's meant to the Celtics, the organization took Irving -- a four-time All-Star, Olympic and NBA champion -- over the scrappy underdog who's just beginning to build his resume (see full story).

Celtics: Irving switches to No. 11 with new team
BOSTON -- Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce's No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

Spurs: Undrafted Perrantes signs contract
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs have signed guard London Perrantes.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed Wednesday

The 22-year-old Perrantes wasn't drafted out of Virginia this year but made summer league appearances for the Miami Heat in Las Vegas and Orlando.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 10 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the MGM Resorts Summer League. He averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in Orlando summer league action.

Perrantes set school career records at Virginia with 138 games and 4,425 minutes. He averaged 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3 rebounds during his senior season. He made 40.9 percent of his career 3-point attempts (211 of 516).

Clippers: Team reportedly close to deal with Winger as GM
LOS ANGELES -- The expansion of the Los Angeles Clippers' front office isn't done yet.

After removing Doc Rivers' title as president of basketball operations earlier this month, the team has reached an agreement with Oklahoma City's Michael Winger to become their general manager, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Winger will replace Dave Wohl, who is staying with the team as a special adviser, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has yet to be announced publicly.

Winger had been an assistant GM and team counsel for the Thunder for the last seven years. Previously, the 37-year-old executive worked for the Cavaliers (see full story).

How are Sixers impacted by Cavaliers-Celtics blockbuster trade?

How are Sixers impacted by Cavaliers-Celtics blockbuster trade?

The Celtics and Cavaliers pulled off a blockbuster trade to swap point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas (among other pieces), a deal that still positions both teams at the top of the Eastern Conference (see story)

So what does it mean for the Sixers?

In the short term, probably not much. The Celtics and Cavs are likely to finish first and second in the East and contend for a shot at the NBA Finals in the upcoming season. If the Sixers make the playoffs (a very realistic possibility if everyone stays healthy), both teams would be daunting opponents to upset.

The following season, though, is when things could get interesting. The Cavaliers will have two huge questions to address next summer and how they answer them will affect the rest of the East.

Thomas is entering the final year of his contract. He has said he believes he should garner a max deal. Will the Cavs pay up for Thomas, who will be 29 years old then, is currently coming off a hip injury and bases his game on speed and athleticism? Or will his time in Cleveland be brief? 

Then there’s LeBron James and his player option for the 2018-19 season. There’s no certainty James will remain in Cleveland after a rocky summer with front-office changes and a changing landscape of competition around the league. If the Cavs can’t get past the Celtics — or any other team for that matter — will he stay or seek a title elsewhere?

If the Cavs were to lose one or both players next offseason, that could open up the Eastern Conference and create an opportunity for teams on the rise, like the Sixers, to move up in the standings. 

The Sixers have maintained a measured, strategic approach to reconstructing the roster and stayed away from rushing into lengthy contracts just for the sake of spending cap space. An ideal situation for the Sixers is to be on an upward trend while others currently ahead of them are on the decline or rebuilding.

The Cavaliers also received a highly-coveted asset in the 2018 unprotected Nets pick from the Celtics, which actually could end up being the most valuable piece in this trade. Even if Thomas were to decide to sign with another team, the Cavs still could draft a top prospect to build with for the future. Or, they could include the pick in a trade and depending where it goes could impact the East or the West. 

Even though the Celtics parted ways with the Nets’ pick, they still have the 2018 protected Lakers’ pick they acquired from the Sixers in June as part of the trade up to No. 1 in the draft for Markelle Fultz. 

For years, moves among playoff teams in the East didn't have much of an impact on the Sixers. Now as they enter a new phase with a foundation in place to be competitive, a trade between the Celtics and the Cavaliers could affect their position in the standings in the future.