Joel Embiid focused on being Sixers cornerstone player

Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid

The Sixers entered the offseason with young, blossoming talent as well as plenty of money and cap space.

On the way to training camp, LeBron James opted to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors.

The “star hunting” Sixers didn’t add a whole lot. Therefore, it’s up to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to elevate their collective games to the next level for the Sixers to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs. The Boston Celtics dispatched the Sixers in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Most importantly, Embiid must transform into the team leader in every way imaginable. The 7-foot-2 center is the franchise cornerstone. The Sixers will go as far as the big man takes them.

Whether it’s practice, games or off the court, Embiid is in charge. He’s a gargantuan talent with so much untapped potential. Embiid must improve his conditioning and every aspect of his game. Now, he’s already playing at an extremely high level. It’s time to advance.

The good news is this: Embiid is healthy. The marathon 82-game NBA season is difficult to wade through.

For the Sixers to move past where they advanced last season, Embiid has to lead the way. Last season, he averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocked shots per game.

During Media Day, Embiid made quite a bold statement.

“An appearance in the NBA Finals, and winning it all,” Embiid told the assembled media about what he expected this season. “I feel like we got all the talent to make it happen.”

Embiid missed his first two seasons with foot and back injuries and was limited to 31 games in his third season. Last season, he played 63 games and was held out at times for what the team referred to as “load management.”

For the first time, however, Embiid appears to be 100 percent to open a season.

“I have a lot of expectations for this season,” Embiid said. “This is the first time I’m healthy, especially during the summer time and coming into the season, just being myself and being ready for the season.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown, one of the most optimistic people in all of professional sports, believes his franchise cornerstone is ready to be a leader.

“I think he’s going to be dominant, I really think he’s going to be dominant,” Brown told reporters. “There’s not one thing I’ve seen this summer or this gym behind me that suggests otherwise. … There’s no restrictions. We expect him to play back-to-backs. I can play him as much as I want.”

Embiid likes the nucleus around him, even though a number of stars chose not to join the Sixers.

“I have a different mindset,” Embiid said. “I don’t have to worry about anything, just about coming in, getting in better shape, learning how to play with each other.”

“We’ve got some new guys. I’ve got to see where they want to be, and where they want the ball. And they also got to learn to play with me. It’s all about learning. In previous years, I didn’t get to do that.”

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