Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor was suspended for two games Wednesday for his role in fights outside a Boston bar last week, and New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony sympathizes with what the highly touted rookie is going through.
The Knicks defeated the Sixers 99-87 Wednesday night without Okafor in the lineup. Afterward, Melo discussed Okafor's situation and its parallels to what he went through as a young player with the Denver Nuggets, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post:
I wish I could reach out to [Okafor]. I had to learn the hard way. Unfortunately. I had to figure out that I had control of my own career and which direction I wanted to go in.
There comes a time you sit down with yourself, have some 'me' time and figure out what you want out of your life and career. There was some people I was able to get advice [from] and vent to, but a lot of my experiences I had to deal with on my own.
The 31-year-old Anthony also brought up the fact that a lack of veteran leadership in Philly's locker room may have been a contributing factor in Okafor getting into some off-court trouble:
You can't hold guys hands and walk them through day-to-day life. [Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis] is fortunate enough to have veterans and guys in this locker room that can talk to him and teach him. That situation with Okafor, it's an unfortunate situation. That could've been anybody. It happened to be him. He's dealing with that. I feel bad for him. I know those situations. Sometimes you can’t control those situations.
The former Duke standout came under fire last week when TMZ released a video that showed him getting involved in an altercation outside a Boston bar following a loss to the Boston Celtics:
TMZ then released another video from the same night that featured Okafor taking part in a second fight:
In response to the evidence that mounted against Okafor, the 76ers decided to suspend him for two games, per a statement provided by John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
Okafor has shown remorse for his actions, calling them "dumb" and saying he was "embarrassed" about making headlines in such a negative way, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown was disappointed as well, but he also offered an explanation in the form of losing taking a toll on the 2015 college basketball national champion, per The Dan Patrick Show (h/t William Lou of the Score):
I think we'd all be naive to think that it doesn't have some level of affect. He has been used to winning. He is one of the major faces of the program. He is a prideful young man. You add it all up - not to make excuses - just out of fairness and reality, I believe a portion of it has impacted that mindset.
Despite Philadelphia having won just one game this season, Okafor has adjusted to life in the NBA well from an on-court perspective, as he is averaging 17.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
That same level of maturity obviously hasn't come as quickly off the court, as evidenced by the incidents in Boston.
Seeing that his actions have consequences could help speed up the maturation process, but Okafor would undoubtedly benefit from a mentor like Anthony.
He currently doesn't have that at his disposal with the Sixers, but it may be worth it for 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie to consider trading for or signing a veteran leader for the sole purpose of teaching a guy like Okafor how to act professionally in the NBA.
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