Philadelphia 76ers shutting down Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington for rest of season
Tom Withers | The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — Jahlil Okafor didn’t make it through his second NBA season.
That’s nothing new for the can’t-get-healthy Philadelphia 76ers.
Okafor was shut down Friday with a sore right knee for the remainder of the year by the Sixers, whose attempt to return to relevancy has been slowed by major injuries to key players over the past few years.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor has been dealing with soreness in his knee since undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus a year ago. He’s played in 50 games this season, but the team wants to sit him for the last seven so he has more time to recover and be ready for 2017-18.
The Sixers also are sitting forward Robert Covington for the remainder of the season because of right knee soreness and swelling. Covington on Wednesday underwent an MRI, which revealed a slight meniscus tear. It’s possible he’ll need surgery.
“At this stage of the year it seems like it’s the right thing to do,” coach Brett Brown said before Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. “I know they’re very disappointed about not being here with the team and being able to see this through, but it’s borderline zero doubt that this is the right thing to do.”
Okafor averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
“He had signs of fantastic play,” Brown said. “He had signs of disappointment. I think to make any level of judgment is kind of grossly unfair because of the erratic nature of his health. There were times he was good to go and I chose not to play him when we had our abundance of centers. We look at some of those games he was able to get his touches, he scores. He scores in his sleep.”
Covington averaged 12.9 points in 67 starts in his fourth season.
“Robert, by all standards, had his best year in the NBA,” Brown said. “He grew to a level that was respected around the league as a legitimate two-way player.”
The Sixers (28-47) have had rotten luck with injuries to some high draft picks.
Center Joel Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in 2014, didn’t play after Jan. 27 and his season ended earlier this month when an MRI revealed a tear in his left knee. He had been slowed by foot injuries for two years and was finally coming into his own.
Also, top pick Ben Simmons broke his foot before the season started.