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February 11, 2017

Jahlil Okafor doesn’t play against Miami because of ‘trade rumors’

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Jahlil Okafor did not play for the Sixers on Saturday night as they snapped the Miami Heat’s 13-game winning streak. The second-year center’s name has been in trade rumors over the past couple of weeks, so there was immediate speculation that the team was holding Okafor out in the expectation that he could get traded.

And as it turns out, that was exactly what happened. After the game, Brett Brown sure made it sound like he heard something from the Sixers front office.

“There were trade rumors that were happening before the game,” Brown said. “I was aware of those. In those situations, I felt that it was best to not complicate things and not play Jahlil. We talked about it together before the game and I explained to him that this was going to happen for this reason.”

Brown said that Okafor handled the news maturely. When asked why the decision was made tonight as opposed to other games (after all, Okafor’s name has been in trade rumors for a few weeks), he pointed to the nearing deadline.

“As the all-star game gets closer, possible deals have more of a chance,” Brown said. “And although speculation is rampant all throughout stuff, you learn as the deadline gets closer, that the reality that something gets closer goes to a higher level.”

With the all-star break two games away, Brown didn’t rule out holding out Okafor against Charlotte and Boston.

“I feel like it’s still fluid, but if you see me not play him, that’s probably going to be the reason,” Brown said.

Okafor was not available for comment after the game.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann