Amid trade rumors, Jahlil Okafor expected to play against Celtics

ByJEFF GOODMAN via <a href="" title="ESPN" class="espn_sc_byline">ESPN </a>
February 15, 2017, 1:01 PM

&#151; -- BOSTON -- After remaining in Philadelphia for Saturday night's game in Charlotte due to what appeared to be an impending trade, 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor arrived in Boston on Tuesday night and is expected to play against the Celtics on Wednesday night.

"I'm just trying to focus on playing basketball," Okafor said Wednesday following the team's shootaround. "It's really difficult with all the rumors, not knowing if I'll be here tomorrow. But I know I'm playing tonight and that's what I'm focusing on."

"The organization has been up front with me and communicating with me that they were in advanced trades," Okafor added. "They didn't tell me I was certainly out of the door, just that it was a possibility. I'm grateful of Coach (Brett Brown) and [the] organization that was up front with me. I know it's rare for teams to do that."

Okafor has been the subject of trade rumors for the past few weeks as next week's trade deadline approaches. Coach Brown was up front this past weekend with reporters about the fact that Okafor wasn't traveling with the team due to trade rumors.

Brown said he's dealt with holding out players in the past due to trade discussions, but he hasn't seen one last this long.

"This isn't uncommon as it relates to the topic," Brown said Wednesday. "It is uncommon as it relates to the length of time."

The 6-foot-11, 275-pound Okafor, who was drafted with the third pick in 2015, has dealt with injuries this season. He is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season, but it's clear that general manager Bryan Colangelo is trying to move Okafor with the abundance of big men on the Sixers' roster.

Brown said that he's still unsure when Joel Embiid will return to the court. Embiid is dealing with a knee injury that has been described as a minor tear in his meniscus, and will not participate in the Rising Stars Challenge or the Skills Challenge this weekend at the All-Star Game in New Orleans.

"He'll be back," Brown told ESPN. "We're just not sure when yet."

Brown said that while he will continue to coach Okafor as if he will be in Philadelphia long term, he also understands he could be traded in the next week.

"I don't believe they are off," Brown said of the trade talks involving Okafor. "I believe this particular one has not happened. The trade deadline is this week and it's probably fluid. The one that was the reason for us reacting to Jahlil not being with the team, very advanced discussions, did not happen."

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