SACRAMENTO, Calif. – So it begins – again.
Trade rumors involving 76ers reserve center Jahlil Okafor have resumed. Fox 10 Phoenix reported Wednesday that the Suns are interested in acquiring the third overall pick of the 2015 draft.
Okafor was scheduled to meet with his agent Bill Duffy for lunch here Wednesday to discuss possible trade scenarios.
“He’s supposed to give me a rundown on all the options and what’s being said,” Okafor said following Wednesday morning’s practice at Golden 1 Center. “I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on, because I don’t know what’s going on.”
The Suns’ interest in Okafor isn’t new.
Phoenix expressed interest heading into the season. Okafor has also been the subject of trade discussions with the New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers, among others.
The Suns, however, reportedly want to revisit obtaining Okafor after trading disgruntled guard Eric Bledsoe on Tuesday to the Milwaukee Bucks for post player Greg Monroe, a protected 2018 first-round pick and a 2018 protected second-rounder.
The Suns don’t have long-term plans for Monroe, who’s making $17 million in this the final year of his contract. So Phoenix will look to trade him or buy him out of his contract.
Don’t count on the Sixers taking Monroe in any potential deal with the Suns. The Sixers have around $15 million available in cap space. A chunk of that money is expected to go to Robert Covington, whose contract can be renegotiated as early as Nov. 15. As a result, the Sixers’ cap space is not in play for any deal.
The Suns could, however, offer one of their protected draft picks and/or someone with a salary comparable to Okafor’s $4.9 million. The Sixers could agree to take someone like Alex Len. He’s making $4.1 million in the final year of his deal.
However, the Bucks could also be an option for Okafor. After trading Monroe, the Bucks are in need of a post player with solid offensive skills.
No JoJo at practice
Joel Embiid was not on hand for Wednesday’s practice.
The center participated in physical therapy and individual court-work drills at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden. Embiid was being monitored by David Martin, the team’s director of performance research and development. The two are scheduled to join the team here Wednesday evening.
Embiid is scheduled to play in Thursday’s matchup against the Kings. He was held out of Tuesday’s 104-97 victory over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City to rest his surgically repaired left knee.
Furkan Korkmaz is also expected to join the team on Wednesday evening. The rookie swingman was called up from a stint with the Sixers’ G League team, the Delaware 87ers.
Brown: ‘Redshirt’ year helped Embiid, Simmons
Ben Simmons plays like a four-year veteran – not the rookie he is. That same could be said last season about his teammate, Embiid.
Brett Brown has an idea why.
“I think the fact that they sat out and got older and bigger and stronger and I think smarter, how could that had not helped them?” the coach said of both of his cornerstones’ sitting out their initial professional season. “Could they have jumped into the league and done what they are doing? I think they are better off for it.”
Brown doesn’t know how much better it made Simmons and Embiid. However, he does feel the “redshirt” tag is the best way he can explain the maturity in their games compared with that of traditional rookie Markelle Fultz, whom the Sixers took first overall in June’s NBA draft.
Embiid actually missed his first two seasons because of two foot surgeries after being selected third overall in the 2014 draft. Meanwhile, Simmons, the 2016 first-overall pick, was sidelined all of last season with a fractured right foot.
However, he’s averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and eight assists. Simmons is the first player to record at least seven double-doubles in his first 10 games since Shaquille O’Neal opened his career with 11 consecutive double-doubles for the Orlando Magic during the 1992-93 season.
Last season, Simmons spent a lot of time with Brown studying video of point guards. The coach also quizzed him on what to do in certain in-game situations.
“I think it definitely helped,” he said. “But you cannot compare it to actually playing. I think I’ve learned more actually being on the court and playing and seeing different teams and sets and watching.
“But it did pay off being able to watch and learn the game.”