By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Philadelphia 76ers have suspended rookie centre Jahlil Okafor for two games after his involvement in off-court incidents in the past few weeks, the NBA team said on Wednesday.
Okafor, the number three overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Duke, was most recently involved in a fight outside a Boston nightclub last week and was found driving recklessly on a bridge.
Prior to their game on Wednesday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Sixers announced the suspension that was effective immediately and said they would provide support for him to succeed on and off the court.
The discipline came after videos were posted on the Internet earlier in the day showing two separate scuffles outside the nightclub with Okafor shown in the midst of them.
The 19-year-old rookie said after the fact that he was embarrassed by his behaviour.
“Jahlil is a very important part of our organisation and our future,” the team said in a statement.
“While we are disappointed with his recent actions, we have faith in him as a valued member of the Sixers. We will provide the necessary resources to support him on his journey and will do our part to help him succeed both on and off the court.”
The suspension comes one day after the Sixers ended a 28-game losing streak stretching back to last season when they ended their winless 0-18 start this season with a win at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He’s a big part of our offence, a big part of what we do,” Sixers guard-forward JaKarr Sampson, 22, told Reuters about Okafor after warming up for the game against the Knicks.
“It’s part of having the spotlight being on you. Just part of growing pains.”
Okafor had started 18 games for the Sixers this season and is averaging 17.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots.
He will also miss Saturday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)