Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 21) -- Jahlil Okafor to get 'every opportunity' to play going forward

NBA.com staff reports

This morning’s headlines:

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Okafor to get opportunities to play as Sixers shop him — Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown were full of praise at yesterday’s media luncheon for many of the team’s young talent. From Joel Embiid to Ben Simmons to Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz, the GM and coach had nothing but positives to say. But what about young center Jahlil Okafor. According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Okafor remains on the trading block but will get minutes in 2017-18:

Okafor will get “every opportunity to earn playing time,” Brown said. Right now, Okafor is competing with Richaun Holmes and free-agent signee Amir Johnson for the backup center position.

Joel Embiid, the standout starter, has not been cleared for 5-on-5 scrimmages with training camp starting Tuesday. The Sixers said there’s no timetable for his return. As a result, expect Okafor, if healthy, to get a lot of playing time in the preseason to showcase his skills to potential trading partners.

He participated in a 3-on-3 scrimmage Tuesday. This comes after Okafor saw both of his NBA seasons cut short by injuries to his right knee. He missed 18 games last season because of the knee. He also missed two games to rest, another because of hamstring tightness, and three with gastroenteritis.

Okafor’s knee has been bothering him since he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on March 22, 2016. The injury could make it hard for the Sixers to get what they deem as equal value for the 6-foot-11 center, the third overall pick of the 2015 draft.

Okafor sees himself as a starter in the NBA.

“But he finds himself in a situation where there is a pretty big roadblock ahead,” Colangelo said in April. “So … we discussed scenarios with his agent that we can find something mutually beneficial.

“But if not, I’m happy to have Jahlil a part of this organization.”

The Sixers had trade discussions about Okafor with several teams — including the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets — last season leading up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Okafor was even held out of two games, Feb. 11 at home against Miami and Feb. 13 at Charlotte, because the Sixers said they were close to a trade. He didn’t even accompany the team on the flight to Charlotte.

He has displayed a serious commitment to his diet this off-season. Eating mostly vegan foods, he was down to 258 pounds in August. That’s 20 pounds lighter than the weight at which he entered training camp last year.

“Jahlil’s effort to get back in shape and try to earn his way back into this team is respected,” Brown said.

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Wizards’ Morris to miss start of camp — Washington has hopes of building upon last season’s run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. They will open camp soon as they begin that quest, but will do so without one of the key cogs to last season’s team. According to The Washington Post and CSNWashington.com, Markieff Morris has a groin injury requiring surgery that will hold him out of camp:

The Wizards will be without starting power forward Markieff Morris for the start of training camp, as Morris is due for surgery to repair a sports hernia on Friday.

The Wizards begin training camp on Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Richmond, Va.

Their first preseason game is on Oct. 2 and they begin their regular season schedule on Oct. 18 at home against the Sixers.

That should give Morris several weeks to recover before the season begins.

If he misses time, whether in the preseason or regular season, the Wizards will have to turn to backups Jason Smith and Mike Scott. Depending on the situation, it could call for more small-ball lineups with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Jr. playing together at the forward positions.

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Report: Warriors ‘perplexed’ by Durant’s offseason battles — From firing back at fans on his Twitter account to his recent apology for a social media snafu, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has been nothing if not active on social media this summer. According to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, though, the Warriors have been a bit puzzled by Duran’ts activity of late:

Durant’s tweets – a pair of replies to a Twitter user who criticized Durant for leaving Oklahoma to cherry-pick a championship – covered a lot of ground. He took shots at the organization, the roster and the coach, Billy Donovan. He declared he couldn’t win a championship with that team – despite being up 3-1 in the conference finals against a team that already did.

Durant has everything in front of him – so why is he still looking back? The Thunder aren’t. Oklahoma City was crippled by Durant’s decision to defect. A team built to compete for championships for years found itself with a roster that needed one of the greatest seasons in NBA history from Russell Westbrook just to make the playoffs. Yet the Thunder never criticized Durant. Publicly, they thanked him for everything he did for the organization. Privately, they did, too.

The Warriors will open training camp Friday and maybe then things will get back to normal. The sneaker tiff with Curry seems to have blown over, and by addressing the Thunder tweets he saves himself from having to later. But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

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Pacers’ Jefferson trims down for 2017-18 — Two seasons ago, Al Jefferson entered Charlotte Hornets training camp having shed 25 pounds (some of which he attributed to eating less from the fast food chain, Popeye’s). Now with the Pacers, Jefferson is looking slim and trim again and explains to Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star how he trimmed down:

The veteran big man was asked how much weight he had lost.

“Since I signed here last year, 40 pounds,” said Jefferson at the Pacers golf outing at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course. “Since the season, 20 (pounds).”

Part of the reason for Jefferson’s diet change was a bad meal he ate several months ago. That convinced him to eliminate meat from his diet.

“I’m a vegetarian now,” said Jefferson. “I got sick eating some home fried chicken. That’s my favorite. I just gave it up. See how long I can do it. I’m not saying it’s forever.”

Asked if chicken was what he missed most, Jefferson smiled.

“Man, you’re making my mouth water,” Jefferson said. “I love chicken. Can we not talk about chicken?”

Jefferson said he was down to 275 pounds, and wanted to reach his rookie weight of 265. To earn consistent playing time at backup center behind Myles Turner, Jefferson knows he must show the Pacers’ coaching staff that he has the quickness to defend big men on the perimeter, and to mesh with the faster tempo they hope to employ.

Jefferson said he was looking forward to the challenge of showing that he can adapt, entering his 14th NBA season.

“When you’re out here defending these guys who play around the 3-point line, you got to be up and ready to move,” Jefferson said. “Ready to defend that pick-and-roll. That’s big in this league right now. That’s one of the things me and Nate talked about going into the offseason.

“It’s all about being dedicated. I feel a lot better. I’m just taking a page out of Tim Duncan’s book. I’m 32, and I know when he got in his early 30s, he started slimming down and took it to another level.”

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Adebayo makes good summer impression on Heat — Essentially since the start of Orlando Summer League, Miami Heat rookie Bam Adebayo has been turning heads. That has continued into the offseason, as he has worked out with Miami’s veteran players and, as camp nears, may have a solid role to fill in 2017-18. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has more:

I asked Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel who was instrumental in the drafting of Adebayo, what the 6-10 Adebayo can do at an NBA level now.

“The one thing I think he can do – and it was borne out this summer – is he can defend,” Kammerer said. “He’s a rookie, so you don’t think automatically [that a rookie is] going to be a great defender. But he can defend his position or a position in the NBA.

“He did a fairly good job this summer of doing that and he has the physical tools to be trained and drilled to do that. He can defend fours [power forwards] and fives [centers] at this point. For a man that has a great body, he has good feet and that’s so crucial defending the ball. Down the road, he will be able to switch onto players and stay in front of them.”

“When we interviewed him, one of the things we asked him prior to his [Heat pre-draft] workout, we asked about his ability to shoot. I asked, ‘What’s your range?’ He said, ‘Three-point range.’

“I said, ‘Wait a minute? Three point range?’ I said, ‘If you shot 100 threes from the corner, how many would you make?’ He said 60.

“He then shot 100 threes in his workout, and he made 60. If he had made 40 or 50, that would have been good.”

So can he help as a rookie?

“It will depend on how he picks up everything and how he matures,” Kammerer said. “I think he has the potential to play some this year but a lot depends on how [he develops]. He could be a backup five. He can play five in the NBA. Bam is pretty close in size to [Boston center] Al Horford….

“None of these NBA kids are really ready. The one thing he’s got going for him is most guys his age are weak physically and they get taken advantage of because they can’t take on a bigger stronger player. That won’t be an issue for him. That aids him in being able to play. But he’s got a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: According to a report, Carmelo Anthony’s camp is ‘cautiously optimistic’ he’ll be dealt by Monday to Houston … Kids in Salt Lake City didn’t take it easy on Jazz center Rudy Gobert in a Q&A session … Kentucky coach Rick Pitino thinks high schoolers will be in the NBA within two years … Did you get a look at the ‘Spirit of 76’ court the Sixers will use a few times this season? … Bulls guard Zach LaVine is putting in some major work to recover from his knee injuryJohn Paxson is front-and-center again as the Bulls start another rebuild …

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