The news isn’t great on Joel Embiid — but it isn’t terrible either.
After getting season-ending knee surgery after one of the most memorable 31-game stretches in recent NBA history, Embiid has spent the summer traveling and practicing. But with training camp kicking off in Camden, NJ this week the 7-footer is not 100 percent ready to play.
“I think the timetable, you know we are focusing on the first game of the season,” Embiid said, setting a measuring stick for his recovery. “There is a lot of training camp coming up, we have preseason games. My plan is that if I am not 100 percent they are not going to put me out there.”
So if he does get healthy, how much will he play?
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “It depends on my body and depends on the team. If I could play 82 games, I would but I’ll be honest I dont think I’ll play 82 games. That’s not happening but hopefully I’ll do that.”
Embiid’s health, and his contract status — he will be come a restricted free agent at season’s end — have made headlines in Philadelphia and across the NBA. Reports even suggested he was staging some sort of “hold out” in hopes of resolving contract disputes and getting him an extension. According to Embiid, though, that is absolutely not the case.
“I love baskeball and when I am on the court it’s hard to get me off of it,” the former third overall pick said. “Someone telling me I am holding out due to contract negotiations, at the end of the day, I don’t have [any] leverage. They can do whatever they want and there has been discussions on it and hopefully something works out but I am focused on getting back on the court.”
One might think the talk on social media and on television — filled with doubters in The Process and in Embiid’s ability to ever stay healthy and be a productive player — would deter Embiid who has played just 31 games in his three-year NBA career. But it’s what fuels his fire.
“When I get out there I think I have gotten so much better,” he said. “I am more well-rounded. I see what everyone says on Twitter it doesnt bother me. I love cricicism. It just makes me better. I love poeple saying I can’t do this. I am going to work on it and come back the next game a show them I can do this. I am excited and we are going to see a lot of good things this season.”
What are some of the things the stretch-five needs to work on? He gave the assembled media at the Sixers’ practice facility an unexpected answer.
“Me jumping into the stands to save a ball there are some things I have to correct,” Embiid said, confirming what many expected was the catalyst for his knee issues in 2016-17. “I fell a lot last year I think it was also because I was flopping. I have to stop flopping this season.”