New York – Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson wore his No. 67 jersey into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Wednesday night for the first time since he decided last summer to become the first player ever to wear that number.
He grew up nearby in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene housing projects.
“Down the street, down the street,” Gibson said when asked how far he was raised from Barclays Center. “This game is always a little nerve-wracking because you see everybody you grew up with working in here and watching the game.”
He came to Brooklyn to play the Nets usually twice a year when he played for Chicago.
When asked if every visit remains special now in his ninth NBA season, Gibson said, “All the time, and I hate it because your phone rings and everybody is constantly calling for tickets. It’s the worst feeling, but at the same time it’s fun.”
Gibson wears No. 67 after a couple people from Fort Greene suggested it. New York City’s Public School 67 Charles A. Dorsey School is in Gibson’s old neighborhood, and Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau has attended funerals for Gibson’s friends who were killed by gun violence in the area.
Gibson spends his offseasons between property he owns in Brooklyn and New Jersey and a home in Southern California. He left Brooklyn to attend high school in Los Angeles and stayed to play college ball at USC.
“I’m always here in the summer,” Gibson said. “I try to use both coasts.”
Big man is back
Brooklyn’s Jahlil Okafor played only his second game since the Nets acquired him in a Dec. 7 trade with Philadelphia. He hadn’t played since Dec. 15 while the Nets waited for him to improve his conditioning and learn the team’s system.
Wolves point guard Tyus Jones visited with Okafor on Tuesday. The two played together on Duke’s 2015 national title team and remain good friends. Okafor was taken third overall by the Sixers that summer and Jones was drafted 24th.
“Glad he’s getting back to playing, but he could have waited one more game,” Jones said with a smile. “We still talk probably once or twice a week. Text, just little stuff. He has been in pretty good spirits, especially since he has gotten here.”
Okafor had two points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.
Avoiding a wreck
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson might have feared the worst after scouting the Wolves’ past two starts, when they led Indiana 17-0 and the Lakers 16-0 on their way to victory in each game.
“Well, that’s not great for us because we haven’t been getting out on record-breaking starts,” he said. “It looks like a car crash waiting to happen. “
Instead, his Nets scored the game’s first two points and led 13-8 halfway throug the first quarter.
• A week after he sustained a Grade 1 MCL sprain, Wolves guard Jeff Teague was active but did not play.
• The Wolves were set to fly to Boston right after Wednesday’s game, just ahead of a snowstorm.
• Karl-Anthony Towns’ close friend since they trained before the 2015 draft together, Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell, remained out after undergoing knee surgery. The Nets also played without guard Jeremy Lin (knee) and Caris LeVert (groin strain).