Nets' Okafor to face old teammates in 76ers (Jan 31, 2018)

BY AP • January 31, 2018

NEW YORK -- In June 2015, Jahlil Okafor walked on the stage at Barclays Center and doffed a Philadelphia 76ers cap as the No. 3 pick in the draft.

After leading Duke to a national title in his lone collegiate season, Okafor was tabbed as another piece in Philadelphia's rebuilding efforts.

It did not work out and last month Okafor was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. On Wednesday, it will be a reunion between the center and Philadelphia when the teams get together in Brooklyn.

Okafor only appeared in two games for the 76ers this season after dealing with knee issues last season. He was acquired by Brooklyn along with Nik Stauskas for Trevor Booker on Dec. 7.

"Just to see them on another bench and subbing in against us, it's going to be really weird," Philadelphia guard T.J. McConnell told reporters after practice Tuesday. "I'm especially close with Nik and Jahlil so playing against two really good friends, it's going to be different."

Okafor appeared in one of his first 13 games on Brooklyn's roster but has played in the last 14 games. With the Nets, he is averaging 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds while playing about 13 minutes per game.

"I'm not treating it like a tryout, I'm treating it like it's my home," Okafor told reporters Monday. "They welcomed me with open arms, and that's all you can ask as a basketball player. They're taking the time to develop me. They're showing me a lot of love and care."

Okafor's minutes have gone up in recent games. He played 49 minutes in the last two games as Brooklyn lost at Minnesota and New York.

"I think his talent is evident," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie told reporters Monday. "He's showing flashes. He was the No. 3 pick for a reason."

While various 76ers will exchange pleasantries and handshakes with their former teammates, their focus will quickly revert to trying to get an important win.

Philadelphia (24-23) won 10 of 13 games, capping its hot streak with a 97-78 win at San Antonio on Friday. The Sixers followed it up with a 10-point loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday and a 12-point setback at Milwaukee on Monday.

"We're going to go at them," Philadelphia's Ben Simmons told reporters after practice. "It's going to be fun, though, just seeing them. But at the same time, we've got business to handle in Brooklyn."

Joel Embiid will return after sitting out the second night of a back-to-back Monday. Embiid finished 27 points in 36 minutes Sunday and has played at least 30 minutes in his seven of his last eight games.

Without Embiid, the 76ers turned in a hideous display from 3-point range Monday. They shot 2 of 26 from 3-point range as Philadelphia produced the second-lowest percentage on 3-pointers this season.

Dario Saric and Robert Covington were a combined 1 of 16 from behind the arc as Philadelphia didn't make its first 3-pointer with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

"I think it was just our bad game," Saric told reporters. "We were tired from the game against Oklahoma."

The Nets know something about bad games of late.

They began a five-game trip by getting a game-winning shot from Dinwiddie at Detroit on Jan. 21 but blew a 15-point lead Jan. 23 at Oklahoma City before sustaining double-digit setbacks at Milwaukee, Minnesota and New York.

The Nets played the last three games without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (strained right groin) and the last two without Caris LeVert (sore left groin).

Without two key contributors, the Nets lost for the 10th time in 13 games as they shot 41.9 percent, missed 27 of 36 3-pointers and allowed 24 points off 18 turnovers.

DeMarre Carroll led the Nets with 13 points while Jarrett Allen and Allen Crabbe scored 12 apiece. Okafor played 24:48 and finished with five and 13 rebounds in a game the Nets trailed by 25 in the third quarter.

D'Angelo Russell, who is nearly two weeks into returning from a two-month absence because of left knee surgery, was 3 of 11 on Tuesday. He is 12 of 41 since returning, though Russell may be held out Wednesday.

Philadelphia won three of four meetings with the Nets last season.

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