With NBA training camps beginning on Tuesday ahead of the league’s Dec. 22 start, Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid is already feeling the pressure of delivering for the team that took him third-overall in 2014
“I owe the city a championship and that’s why I keep working so hard, because I need to make it happen,” Embiid told Sixers.com. “That’s why I was brought here. I need to make it happen.”
The 26-year-old will anchor a new-look Sixers team that features Doc Rivers running the bench as head coach and Daryl Morey taking over as team president. The change in leadership brought about sizable changes throughout the roster, most notably the trading of Al Horford and Josh Richardson to shake up a starting five that many expected to be one of the best in the NBA last season.
However, Ben Simmons, Richardson, Tobias Harris, Horford, and Embiid struggled to find any sort of consistency — especially away from home — as a nightmare COVID-impacted season resulted in their elimination during the first round of the postseason at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
For Embiid, they were welcome changes.
“I thought it was great. Obviously, we made a lot of big changes, and I’d always like to think it starts from the top,” he said. “It’s nothing against the guys who have been here. I’ve been here the longest, and I want to be here the rest of my career. I’ve seen a lot of changes come in and out, and this summer we decided to make these changes.”
Throughout last season, though, Embiid struggled with health and conditioning issues — which was reflected on his stat sheet.
In 2019-20, he averaged 4.5 fewer points and two fewer rebounds per game, which has been grating on him all offseason.
“For me, as you know, it was kind of ridiculous I didn’t make any All-NBA teams, and that sucks,” Embiid said. “It was kind of like a punch in the gut. It was very disappointing.
“I got to do better. I got to go back to the Joel Embiid from two years ago when I averaged [27.5] points and was the best defensive player in the league.”
While he’s working on getting back toward an All-Star-caliber status, Embiid is also focused on building the reputation of a leader within the 76ers’ ranks.
“I’ve always done it, but a lot of people have the perception of me not working hard or playing hard, but I do. I try my best and, as you can see, I’ve been going at it for quite a while,” he said. “Before the bubble I was in the gym every single day for nearly two months just trying to stay ready, trying to accomplish what we set out to do, but I like to be private about it, working on my family, myself. [Whatever] the perception is, that’s fine.”