Jahlil Okafor isn’t just saying the right things. He’s doing them, too. He’s making a concerted effort to improve on the defensive end, to develop into a better rebounder, and eliminate his ball-stopping ways. The Nets see it every day. “He’s really trying to fit in to what we’re trying to do, and that’s a credit to him,” coach Kenny Atkinson said after Monday’s practice. “Jah’s made strides.” The former No. 3-overall pick in the 2015 draft is coming off his best game as a Net, a 21-point, six-rebound performance against the Timberwolves on Saturday. He garnered a season-high 24 minutes in the loss, making 9-of-14 shots from the field, and blocking a shot. Okafor, traded to the Nets from the 76ers along with Nik Stauskas in exchange for Trevor Booker and a 2019 second-round pick Dec. 7, insisted he didn’t need a game like that for his confidence. He never lost it. “I was able to get some touches around the rim,” the 6-foot-11 big man said as the Nets prepared to face the Knicks on Tuesday night at the Garden. “Defensively, I was talking to my teammates. I felt I was in the right spots a lot of the time. I watched film with the coaching staff. They’re really big on me setting screens, getting my teammates open. That’s something I also did a good job of.” “I think his talent is evident,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “He’s showing flashes. He was the No. 3 pick for a reason.” It will be interesting to see how the former Duke star is used Tuesday night against the Knicks. He’s coming off a stellar outing, and the Knicks have hammered the Nets in the paint in winning the first three games between the two rivals. Okafor played only seven minutes the last time the two teams met and didn’t score. But that may change this time around.
Turns out Jahlil Okafor just needed a team to believe in him
New York Post | Jan 30