Embiid expects to thrive in Philly

Posted: July 02, 2014

IT WAS DEC. 10 of this past college basketball season when Kansas coach Bill Self first inserted his 7-foot project, Joel Embiid, into the starting lineup. It wasn't long after that Embiid really started to feel a comfort zone on the court and thoughts of the NBA started to enter his head.

During the final 20 games of the season in which Embiid was among the starting five, he averaged 12 points, 8.7 rebounds and blocked 55 shots. Originally expected to be a redshirt player this past season, Embiid played himself into a force and, ultimately, the third overall pick in last week's draft by the 76ers. His fractured right foot notwithstanding, the new Sixers' big man envisions a long and healthy career here.

"My agent [Arn Tellem] told me great things about Philadelphia," said Embiid during a conference call with reporters yesterday. "I like food, the Philly cheesesteak, that's the first thing I'm getting. Downtown there are great restaurants and he said it's a good environment for me. To start your career in that kind of place is a great fit for me and I'm kind of like a guy who wants to play for one team for his whole career. Just like Tim Duncan stayed with one team and won championships."

That had to be music to the ears of coach Brett Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie. The foot injury will sideline him, according to Hinkie, for 5 to 8 months. Brown hinted heavily after a news conference the other day that Embiid will sit out the season. So while the incredible progression that Embiid has shown in the last 3 years - when he started playing basketball - will be halted somewhat this season, he doesn't see it as a negative. He said he'll work on whatever aspects of his game he can during the long rehab process and watch as much film as possible to familiarize himself with the NBA game.

"My shot is getting a lot better," he said. "I'm working on my handle. I feel like I can become a forward or I can be a traditional center by staying on the block. I don't want to shoot threes. I have center size and look forward to doing that."

Whenever he plays, he feels he and fellow 7-footer Nerlens Noel can share time on the floor. Embiid even even brought up the names of two of Brown's favorite players - Duncan and David Robinson - when making a comparison.

The biggest issue with Embiid, of course, is his injury history. The foot injury comes after he missed his final six collegiate games with a stress fracture in his back.

"The back wasn't related [to the foot getting hurt] and it is fine," Embiid said. "Before the foot injury the back wasn't bothering me and the doctor said it wasn't going to be a long-term problem and I'm happy with that."

The two words, after injury, that mostly surround Embiid are progression and potential. Many feel that if he can sustain the first, the second is limitless. And maybe those comparisons to a certain Hall of Famer will come to fruition.

"Obviously everybody should already know that's my idol and I loved the way he played the game," said Embiid of Hakeem Olajuwon. "I think that's fair [comparison]. He's a Hall of Famer and I'm excited when people say his name. He could dance on the basketball court and I love to dance. It motivates me and makes me want to work harder. I want to have a great career. I want to be healthy and take care of myself and do damage in the NBA."

This time last year, Self considered redshirting Embiid. Instead, he kept the Cameroon native on the squad and eventually plugged him into the starting lineup. It's been quite a ride for someone who hasn't been playing the game very long.

"This is crazy. Three years ago I was back in Cameroon," Embiid said. "I didn't play my junior year in high school then transferred my senior year and then went to Kansas and coach Self put me in a great position. It's just an example to show people that anything is possible. That's the message that I want to share with everybody, that anything is possible."

Embiid only needs to think back to Dec. 10 to prove that point.

Six shots

The Sixers announced last night that they had released swingman James Anderson. Anderson played in 80 games for the team last season and averaged 10 points . . . Players who will be participating for the team in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer League will have a training camp this week at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Sixers have their first game in Orlando on Saturday.

Read about how Pierre Jackson is thinking big.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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