After a rough start to his rookie campaign, Jahlil Okafor is doing his best to turn his season around. In his past five games, he's averaging 13.6 points on 50% shooting to go with 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. But Okafor's (somewhat minor) run-ins with the law have put a black cloud over what has otherwise been a decent season. In a story that ran today, Okafor sat down with ESPN for an interview, and discussed some of the issues that have followed him.
On the TMZ videos that showed Okafor fighting multiple people after a Thanksgiving eve loss to the Boston Celtics, the 20-year-old seemed to express some remorse about how he handled the situation.
"As we were leaving the club, there were these guys pretty much heckling us, just normal stuff, saying, `You suck.' I was already frustrated that we were losing. At the time, we were 0-16, and we'd just lost a close game we should have won. I can't really talk about details [of the fight]. Pretty much what you see in the video. I was upset. I made a mistake. I let them get under my skin. I reacted.
"When the video came out, it was definitely embarrassing. It was hard to watch. I've watched the video once pretty much because I was disgusted looking at myself in the video."
When asked about the incident in Old City where Okafor reportedly had a gun pulled on him, he shared a different side to the story.
The gun, he says, wasn't pulled on him but on a friend's girlfriend. "It was really fast," he says, declining to elaborate because he says the incident is still being investigated. "It wasn't just me," he later adds. "I was with other people, but just being who I am, my name was the name that got brought up. I wouldn't say I regret that the incident happened. You never want that to happen, but it was something I was able to learn from and become a better person because of it.
And maybe the most ridiculous story surrounding Okafor's off the court incidents was his attempt to enter a Center City bar with a fake ID, something the Chicago native was pretty unhappy about.
That wasn't true," he says. "It was like people were making stuff up. A fake ID? That's a place I go to all the time to get food. What I was going through, to have that out? I was upset about it.
Maybe the most interesting part of the ESPN feature was his budding relationship with fellow Duke alum Elton Brand, who joined the team on Jan. 4.
Before the game against Brooklyn, Okafor piles into a black Land Rover with Furch.
The Land Rover doesn't belong to him. It's Elton Brand's. The former first-overall pick -- a 17-year NBA veteran and former Duke standout -- is Okafor's new teammate. He's letting Okafor borrow the vehicle to get around the city during the winter. "He wants me to be smart about my money," Okafor says.
This is the first public example we've seen of Brand being a veteran leader amongst this team's young core. It's not the craziest of gestures, but nice to see that Brand is going out of his way to help one of Philadelphia's young guns. Let's just hope Okafor keeps the Rover in good condition...
At 4:58, Okafor pulls into a space just a few yards from the arena. As he's exiting the vehicle, a piece of plastic between the Land Rover's door and the windshield pops off. Okafor holds it in place with his left hand and tries to reattach it, but he has to get inside. He leaves the piece dangling.