Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid: 'I intend to play every game' next season

Joel Embiid: 'I intend to play every game' next season

NEW YORK — Eighty-two games including back-to-backs. Joel Embiid has set high expectations for his second NBA season and return from injury. 

Embiid is continuing to rehab from season-ending surgery in mid-March for a meniscus tear in his left knee. On Tuesday, he represented the Sixers on stage at the 2017 draft lottery (see story) where he gave an update on his progress. He said he will be ready for opening night.

"[My offseason goal is to] make sure my body's ready because I think next year I'll be able to play almost every game," Embiid said. "Just make sure my body's ready to take on the toll of the NBA schedule, back-to-backs, but I intend to play every game and we're going to see how it goes. It's about getting strong and getting my legs strong and making sure I'm ready for next year."

It is very likely Embiid will be under restrictions when he returns. This past season, he was capped at 28 minutes and held out of back-to-backs as the Sixers closely monitored him after he was sidelined by foot injuries the previous two years. So does he plan to play in back-to-backs for the first time next season?

"Oh yeah, definitely," Embiid said. 

Embiid is slated to have another scan in the upcoming weeks, at which point he hopes to be cleared for additional basketball activity. At this point, he has not been jumping in his rehab program. Embiid said he expects to participate in 5-on-5 drills this offseason. He will not participate in summer league.

"Every day I go in and do some rehab on my knee, on my whole body basically," Embiid said. "Then [I] get on the court, shoot a little bit flat-footed, and then lift. After lifting, I go in the pool and [on the] treadmill and then start running in the pool. Usually I'm there for about four, five hours every day.

"Each day it's been going great. I think I've still got two or three more weeks to go until the next scan. If everything looks good after that scan, I'm going to start jumping and doing more stuff." 

Embiid wants to push the Sixers to the next level next season after the team showed signs of promise when he was on the court. He knows he has to take care of his body this offseason to make that happen. 

"I think we're going to have different expectations next year," Embiid said. "I'm excited about that. I want to win. I want to make the playoffs, that's a goal for me. The main goal for me is just staying healthy."

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

CAMDEN, N.J. — The front offices of professional sports teams are always dealing with a delicate balance of competing in the present and positioning for a successful future.

The Sixers are no different.

As the team officially tips off training camp on Tuesday for what it hopes to be its most successful season in years, there are still some serious question marks about the future of the roster.

The biggest one surrounds center Joel Embiid. Embiid is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Embiid and the Sixers have until Oct. 16 to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension. If the two sides can’t strike a deal, the big man will become a restricted free agent next summer.

Embiid, who is currently still rehabbing from surgery for a torn meniscus, finally burst onto the scene last season by averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. However, he knows that by being limited to just 31 games during his career and with the team holding all the cards regarding his immediate future, he isn’t in a position of power during any contract negotiations.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have the leverage. I’m going into my fourth season and I’m going to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no leverage, they can do whatever they want. There’s been discussions about it. Hopefully, something does work out” (see story).

Embiid isn’t alone. Robert Covington, also coming off both a breakout season and meniscus surgery, is in a similar situation.

The Sixers picked up the fourth-year, $1.57 million option on Covington’s contract in June. That’s a steal considering Covington finished fourth in the NBA in Defensive Player of the Year voting while scoring 12.9 points a night.

Now the Sixers have a deadline of Nov. 15, the three-year anniversary of when they originally signed Covington, to agree on an extension.

“We’ve definitely been in talks and everything,” said Covington, who reportedly switched agents to the powerful CAA Sports in the offseason. “Both sides are very open to what is going on. It’s just a matter of the right move that’s to be made. Bryan is playing chess right now with the pieces that he’s adding. Now it’s just making sure that everything stays the way that he pictures.”

Then there’s the curious case of Jahlil Okafor. In just two seasons with the team, the center has witnessed his name in just about every trade rumor imaginable. Okafor, who recorded 11.8 points and 4.8 boards a game in a reserve role a season ago, was apparently so close to being dealt at last February’s deadline that he was held out of two games only to rejoin the Sixers.

Team president Bryan Colangelo would never rule anything out in regards to shipping Okafor, but at the moment all plans are for the big man to remain a Sixer.

“There’s no problem between us and Jahlil right now,” Colangelo said. “If he had his druthers would he be with another club? I can’t answer that question, but I think that he’s happy being here. He’s been treated well. The coaches coach him like they coach every other athlete. 

“Again, any discussion about things that are out there — whether or not he’s been traded or not, whether or not he’s being shopped or not — I can say I have not actively been shopping Jahlil Okafor. … But the narrative is he’s here, he’s going to be an active participant in the things that we’re doing preparing for this season and he’s a part of this basketball team until he’s not.”

While things are a very murky with Okafor, the writing appears to be on the wall for Nik Stauskas as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal. 

The team specifically targeted scoring from the off-guard position over the summer (drafting Markelle Fultz to play alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt, signing JJ Redick in free agency and bringing Furkan Korkmaz from overseas). With Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also expected to vie for time at shooting guard, Stauskas’ future in Philadelphia doesn’t exactly seem bright.

“Not at all, no,” Stauskas sternly responded when asked whether his contract status was on his mind heading into the new season.

Top Sixers Quotes: For JJ Redick, finally a 'sports town'

Top Sixers Quotes: For JJ Redick, finally a 'sports town'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and all 20 players on the team's training camp roster spoke at the organization's training complex during media day.

Here are some of the best quotes from Colangelo and each player from Monday's session:

JJ Redick, who has played in Orlando, Milwaukee and Los Angeles, finally gets to play in a sports town.
“I’m going to offend some people in L.A. and Orlando, but I don’t know that I’ve played for a sports town," Redick said. "I’ve never played in a sports town. There are sports towns, right? New York is a sports town, Boston is a sports town, Chicago is a sports town. Those are sports towns. Philly’s a sports town. For me, I’m excited about that.”

Colangelo says Sixers are ready to take the next step.
“We have added a number of pieces, some familiar faces, some unfamiliar. But we feel that all in all, we’re going in with a good blend of that young core that we talk about. We talk about the veteran presence and inclusion with the mix, and feel that things are moving in the right direction with us and put us in a good position to compete and take another step forward as an organization.”

Philly has welcomed Markelle Fultz.
“I love it," Fultz said. "Just walking around, just having the fans here. Just walking around hearing, ‘Trust the process.’ This team is just so young, so open. We’ve got some good vets here. Just coming here, I feel welcomed. It almost feels like I’m almost going back to college, just being welcomed. Just having everyone being around all the time. I love it. I don’t regret anything that happened. I’m excited.”

Ben Simmons doesn't care about a rookie survey.
“I don’t really worry about the guys coming in. I’m worried about the guys at the top. They’ll remember.”

Robert Covington is patient with his contract situation.
“We’ve definitely been in talks and everything. Both sides are very open to what is going on. It’s just a matter of the right move that’s to be made," Covington said. "Bryan is playing chess right now with the pieces that he’s adding. Now it’s just making sure that everything stays the way that he pictures.”

James Michael McAdoo wants to share some wisdom.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like I know everything. Obviously, I didn’t play a ton when I was there. But just being around those guys for three years and being able to pick their brains and just having such great teammates, guys that have been around the league so long and played at such a high level, I definitely look forward to getting into camp tomorrow and being able to share some of that wisdom and just experience with these guys. That’s where we want to be and tomorrow when we show up and these past couple months, that’s what we’ve been working to be.”

Joel Embiid wants to play ... like a guard?
“It’s just about being competitive. I love to win. I’ll do anything to win. I’ll put my body on the line to win. I’m a big man and I’ve never viewed myself as a big man. When I see guards doing certain things, I want to do that too because I’m a human being and it doesn’t matter that I’m seven feet. I want to do that too.

"I feel like people haven’t really seen what I can do and it’s also because I’ve only played 31 games. I think as long as I stay healthy, I have a lot to improve on and a lot of potential. I love it. I love when people criticize me. I love when you guys say whatever you have to say because that makes me go to the gym and work on me to improve myself.”

Jerryd Bayless knew he had to get his wrist repaired when ...
“Yeah, there was a moment. I think it was against the Bulls. I was dribbling and then I tried to go between my legs and the ball hit the wrist. I couldn’t control it. It was like a wet noodle almost. That’s when I knew I had to get it fixed. I wasn’t going to be able to play the rest of the season doing that.”

Amir Johnson’s opening statement to the media:
"My name is Amir Johnson. I'm new to the team. I'm happy to be here. Don't make it awkward."

Emeka Okafor, the 2nd overall pick in the 2004 draft, turns 35 on Thursday and has to prove he can still play.
“The hardest part actually has been the perception. In terms of my conditioning and my ability, especially after going down and playing with various teams, there’s no doubt in my mind I can play in this league and still contribute. I can contribute a lot both on and off the court. I understand the perception of my age and the fact that I’ve been away from the game for so long.

"That being said, being back in this environment, just being back in the NBA umbrella, with the guys and team and with you guys, talking to the press, just feels so good. It just feels like putting on a suit that’s always been the right fit, favorite pair of jeans, however you want to put it. It just feels very, very natural. I’m very excited to be here. I’m very excited for the process and whatever’s coming.”

Richaun Holmes is eager to battle for playing time.
“It’s fun, man. It’s competitive. This is competing every day. It’s fun, it’s kind of what I live for. I’ve never had any problems with it. I love playing against these guys, love getting better in practice against these guys. I just look for everything as an opportunity.”

Nik Stauskas still talks with John Beilein, his coach at Michigan.
“I stay in touch with Coach Beilein throughout the year. I wouldn’t say we talk regularly, but every now and then we stay in touch. His whole thing is just he always taught me to continue believing in myself, continue working. He saw me for two years in college, so he knows what I’m capable of. He understands how bad I want to be a great player in this league, so he just continues to encourage me. It’s great to have a powerful basketball mind like that on your side."

Justin Anderson wasn't concerned with Nerlens Noel’s contract negotiations after the trade.
“My parents taught me to never worry about another man’s money, never worry about another man’s career. The best to him, but the reality of it is Bryan made a move to get me here. I’m very happy to be here. I text him before the season started not too long ago and said I won’t let you down. I’m going to make sure I handle everything that I need to handle to make sure that the season is successful not just for me but for my team.”

Jacob Pullen is ready to trust the process too.
“I was here for a couple weeks before signing and they’re ready to work. There are a lot of guys here that are ready to take the next step and show that they’re capable of winning games. They’ve been trusting the process and these guys believe. It’s a great group of guys here and I’m just ready to help.”

T.J. McConnell is happy to honeymoon ... in Camden? 
“I went home for about a month after the season was over to Pittsburgh and then I came back out here and I’ve been working out since May. Then I went back home to plan for the wedding a bit and then got married on Sept. 9. What’s better than a honeymoon in Camden, New Jersey?”

If Kris Humphries, a 13-year veteran, could take a time machine ...
“Someone asked me earlier today, what would you tell your rookie self? I said to shoot threes so I could get a jump-start on that. I started shooting threes at like age 30. People were kind of like, ‘You can’t do it that late. You are who you are.’ I kind of took that as a challenge and expanded my game.

"Being in Boston and then Atlanta, kind of the system and playing out on the floor and making decisions, that open-style basketball, which is a lot of what they’re doing here. It’s pretty cool to kind of build on what I’ve been doing and also be that guy that continues to work hard and help the young guys. I’ve always been just a hard worker, earn-it type guy in my career. Just continue to do that.”

Furkan Korkmaz needs to hit the gym and play better D.
“My first goal was to come here and work individually to put on some pounds, to get some kilos. Then to work on my weaknesses. I know everyone is talking about my defense now, but I think I will be a great defender.”

How James Blackmon Jr. earn a roster spot?
“I feel like my scoring, not just shooting the ball, but my scoring and making plays offensively is definitely what got me here. I just feel like bringing that same effort and intensity on defense is what’s going to make me stay.”

Dario Saric needs some sleep.
“I’m feeling a little bit tired. It’s not too much. I didn’t expect to finish the national team like that. That’s because I was feeling a little bit different than usual. My physical things, I’m feeling a little bit tired. I don’t have any problems, any health problems. I think before the season starts I’ll be mentally ready, physically ready and ready to play every game and give 100 percent.”

No more McDonald's for a slimmed down Jahlil Okafor.
“It wasn’t easy. The first drastic change I made was my diet. I became a vegan. I didn’t jump full vegan. I gradually made my way to that. First I took out dairy. I took out steak and chicken and fish and then some of my favorites like cheese. All the other BS I was putting in my body I cut out.

"The reason for doing that was so that I could become healthy. I read somewhere that dairy wasn’t inflammatory and my knee was always swelling up last season. I had no idea about that, so once I found that out, I cut out dairy. Now I’m a full-on vegan and I feel great. I’m gonna stick with it.”

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot's knee is finally feeling better.
“I think as the season went along last year it got a little bit worse and worse every game and every week. I just kind of felt it during summer league a little bit. Afterward, I stopped playing for a little while. Then when I got back to the national team, I did an MRI and it showed something on my tendon. Directly after, I came back here. The week after, I got a PRP injection. Since that time, I’ve just kept going and my knee has been feeling way better right now. I’ll be ready. I can’t say when like an exact date but I think it’ll be little time.”

And finally ... a budding bromance between Redick and Embiid?
“In terms of the dynamic of the two of us, I think we can balance each other out," Redick said. "I can provide things for him and he provides things for me. I think we complement each other really well. An example, of course, would be spacing. But I also think because of my cutting and my off-ball movement, his passing, his screening, his rolling, my pocket passes, those are all things that sort of complement each other.

"Defensively, he gives me a lot of confidence to guard a guy when I have somebody like Joel similar to how I’ve had at different times in my career with DeAndre (Jordan) and Dwight (Howard) protecting the rim. Those are all things that I think are sort of complements to each other that we’re going to work really well together.

I'm flattered that you guys think ... I’m not serious. It’s hour four of media day, give me a break here. I think there’s a budding bromance between Joel and I, I really do. I’m looking forward to sort of just letting it develop.”