It will take time for Jahlil Okafor to begin answering all the questions about his motivation and conditioning that arose before he was traded to the Nets on Thursday. But it’s clear Okafor has slimmed down as a result of a vegan diet he adopted last summer to help him overcome soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.
Okafor says he lost 20 pounds and weighs 250-255. “The reason I did it is just the health benefits,” Okafor said earlier this week. “My knee was swelling up a lot and I couldn’t really get it to 100 percent, so I tried cutting out dairy and the swelling went down. I feel great. That’s something I’m going to keep doing.”
When the Nets acquired Okafor and Nik Stauskas from Philadelphia, coach Kenny Atkinson emphasized both must improve defensively and become solid two-way players to get on the court.
“That’s something I’m buying into,” Okafor said. “They’re going to help me with that. I’ll find out their defensive schemes and what they expect from me, but I’m buying into whatever they want me to do. Full-fledged, I’m all in.”
Stauskas said it’s to be expected that all coaches stress defense, but their first individual workout with Atkinson on Sunday focused on the offense. As a three-point specialist, Stauskas looks forward to playing for a team averaging 33.8 three-point attempts per game. “When I first came here, somebody told me, ‘Shoot to kill,’” Stauskas said. “That’s a good motto. I’m excited to get involved in that.”
Help from Coach K
When Okafor was asked who he leaned on for support as he saw his role with the 76ers evaporate, he told a cute story. Referring to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Okafor said, Coach K was one of the guys that I talked to often. He’d call and check on me. My dad, obviously. And my two dogs that I live with — those are my two best friends.”