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Nets clear bench in season finale, but leave Jahlil Okafor rooted to it

Jahlil Okafor of the Nets looks on from

Jahlil Okafor of the Nets looks on from the bench against the Wizards at Barclays Center on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

BOSTON — Nets coach Kenny Atkinson cleared his short-handed bench in a season-ending 110-97 loss to the Celtics that was a blowout for much of the second half. That is, Atkinson cleared his bench with one glaring exception — Jahlil Okafor stayed rooted to his seat just as he has most of the time since the All-Star break.

After playing in 21 straight games through Feb. 12, Okafor made only four more appearances in the final 24 games, playing a total of 41 minutes and 58 seconds. In 26 games played with the Nets since they traded for him in December, Okafor averaged a mere 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds while playing a meager 12.6 minutes per game.

Asked why he didn’t use Okafor against the Celtics, who had their way with the Nets on the boards, Atkinson said, “No reason. It just played out that way.”

Just as he has since joining the Nets, Okafor handled the situation on an even keel after the game. Questioned about his reaction to being the only Net not to play, Okafor said, “Everything is good.”

Shortly after the All-Star break, Okafor and Atkinson had a meeting in which the No. 3 overall pick from the 2015 draft attempted to gain some clarity about his role. But Okafor said no more such meetings have taken place.

It would seem his Nets experience has been a huge disappointment, but Okafor said, “I’m not disappointed. I’m healthy going into the offseason. We’re all good.”

On Thursday, Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks are scheduled to hold their exit interviews with each player. Asked if he still believes he has a future with the Nets, Okafor said, “Yeah. I haven’t burned any bridges. I’ll talk to everybody [Thursday].”

New York Sports