Jahlil Okafor Returns in Sixers' Loss to Celtics as All-Star Break Awaits


BOSTON - Whether or not Jahlil Okafor has played his last game with the Sixers remains to be seen at the trade deadline, but he set out to give it his all after rejoining the team in Boston on Wednesday.

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"I was trying to play as hard as I could and give 100 percent effort," Okafor said.

The Sixers held Okafor out on Saturday in Philadelphia and Monday in Charlotte because they were close to a deal, according to a source (see story). Okafor said on Wednesday he thought he was going to be traded during that period of time (see story). Instead, he traveled to Boston on Tuesday and made his return against the Celtics in the Sixers' 116-108 loss (see Instant Replay).

"It felt good to be back with the team," Okafor said. "Everybody was supportive." 

Okafor logged 17 minutes off the bench behind Nerlens Noel, who started in place of the injured Joel Embiid. Okafor scored all four of his points over a two-minute span in the first quarter. 

He finished the night shooting 2 for 5 from the field, grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and dished two assists. Okafor's one turnover, a traveling violation, came late in the first and he buckled down after that.

"It was fantastic having him back with the team," Brett Brown said. "He fits in seamlessly. He's welcomed back by everybody."

Okafor had been staying ready at the Sixers' training complex in Camden, New Jersey. He worked out and received treatment with Embiid and Ben Simmons while the team traveled to Charlotte and Boston. He had been eager to get back on the court instead of having to watch games from a distance. 

"Given what he's been through, he had three blocked shots and I thought his defense was really good," Brown said. "Even though it hasn't been that long, there is a little bit of rhythm you lose, there's a little familiarity you lose. I thought given his personal circumstances, he was really good.

"[The Celtics] thought so, too. They double-teamed him almost every time he caught the ball. I thought him being unselfish and passing out of pick-and-rolls was the correct read."

Okafor is heading to New Orleans to participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Anything can happen between Wednesday's game and the Feb. 23 trade deadline, but his counterparts are glad to have him as part of the team for as long as he's in a Sixers uniform. 

"It's good [to have him back]," Noel said at shootaround. "Jah is a dear friend of everybody. He's one of the best guys around, a real humble guy. ... He's a mature kid that's really handling it well."

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