Sixers coach defends Jahlil Okafor's poor defensive efforts

Coach Brett Brown has Jahlil Okafor's back.

Okafor, the second-year 76ers center, has often been criticized for what is perceived as a lack of defensive effort. His detractors were perhaps the loudest they've been after a loss Wednesday night to the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Barstool Sports posted a clip from the game that showed Okafor basically standing still, exerting little to no effort. He didn't provide much resistance as Heat point guard Goran Dragic attempted a jump shot right in front of him. Then he was outrebounded by Heat swingman Rodney McGruder. McGruder then circled around Okafor before passing to center Hassan Whiteside, who scored right in front of the Sixers big man.

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Okafor, who had a tough night guarding Whiteside, finished with six points on 3-for-11 shooting. He also had seven rebounds, one block, and five turnovers in 22 minutes, 28 seconds.

"He is young and I think people sometimes have a hard time understanding how young he is," Brown said Wednesday night of the 21-year-old. "There were times you saw the offensive brilliance tonight. Other times, you realize he has a long way to go defensively.

"He has been fantastic. He wants to be coached and I think he is getting better."

Saric honored

Dario Saric was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for February.

Saric led all rookies in scoring at 17.0 points per game and was second in rebounds at 7.9 for the month. Among conference rookies, the 22-year-old was tied for second in steals (1.0) and third in assists (2.8). Saric scored in double figures in 11 of the Sixers' 12 games. He scored 20 or more points in five of those matchups. And Saric had four consecutive double-doubles from Feb. 13 to 25.

Dallas Mavericks point guard Yogi Ferrell is the Western Conference rookie of the month.

The Sixers have swept their conference's rookies of the month so far. Joel Embiid won the award for October/November, December and January.

Roster addition

The Sixers are expected to sign power forward Justin Harper to a 10-day contract Friday, a league source confirmed.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pounder averaged 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds and shot 40.1 percent on three-pointers this season for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League. Harper could get some quality playing time since Dario Saric became the team's lone true power forward after Ersan IIyasova was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.

The roster spot became available after the team waived Andrew Bogut on the Monday, four days after acquiring him along with Justin Anderson and a protected top-18 draft pick from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Nerlens Noel.

Harper was the 32nd overall pick of the 2011 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of Richmond. He was traded on draft night to the Orlando Magic. The 27-year-old played in 14 games during that strike-shortened season. Harper then played for the D-League's Idaho Stampede during the 2012-13 season before spending the next two seasons overseas. He was in the Brooklyn Nets' training camp before the start of last season.

After being waived, Harper was acquired by the D-Fenders and was named a 2016 NBA D-League all-star. He had two 10-day contracts with the Detroit Pistons last season.

Harper averaged 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while being named a first-team all-Atlantic Ten selection during his senior season at Richmond.

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