Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

AVALON, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

Best of NBA: DeMar DeRozan goes for 40 points again in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeMar DeRozan goes for 40 points again in Raptors' win

MIAMI -- DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, marking the first time he's had that many in consecutive games, and the Toronto Raptors pulled off their 19th double-digit comeback of the season to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 on Thursday night.

DeRozan shot 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. He needed 38 shots to score 42 against Chicago on Tuesday.

Norman Powell scored 14 and Delon Wright added 13 for Toronto, which never led until midway through the third quarter. The Raptors allowed 33 points in the first quarter, then held Miami to 35 points over the next 27 minutes.

Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, Hassan Whiteside scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami. Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each had 13 points for the Heat, with Dragic shooting just 5 for 18 (see full recap).

Nets crush Suns for first two-game win streak
NEW YORK -- Brook Lopez scored 19 points, K.J. McDaniels had a season-high 16 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Phoenix Suns 126-98 on Thursday night to give them consecutive victories for the first time this season.

Trevor Booker added 14 points for the league-worst Nets, who beat Detroit on Tuesday.

Devin Booker scored 28 points and Marquese Chriss had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Alex Len had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Brooklyn took a commanding 84-65 lead into the fourth quarter as Lopez scored 12 points in the third quarter. Brooklyn held Phoenix to 15 points, the fewest points the Nets have allowed in the third quarter this season.

Phoenix opened the game with a 17-4 run and led 32-22 after the first quarter. However, Brooklyn turned the tide in the second quarter and took a 52-50 lead into the halftime (see full recap).

Spurs top Grizzlies in possible playoff preview
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points, Kawhi Leonard added 19 and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 97-90 on Thursday night in a possible first-round playoff preview.

San Antonio opened a four-game homestand by moving two games behind idle Golden State for the league's best record. The Spurs (55-16) close the homestand against the Warriors (57-14) next Wednesday.

Memphis (40-32) is seventh in the Western Conference, which would result in a first-round matchup with San Antonio if the standings remain.

Mike Conley had 22 points and six assists for Memphis, which lost its third straight to fall 1 games behind Oklahoma City for sixth place.

Marc Gasol, who had 13 points, was the only other Grizzlies player in double figures (see full recap).

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

CHICAGO -- Injuries have been creating opportunities for different players on the Sixers all season.

Just last week, we took a look at the emergence of Richaun Holmes and how he has moved up the depth chart and proven himself to be a reliable first backup center next season (see story).

Shawn Long has been capitalizing on the same opportunities since earning a call-up from the Delaware 87ers. The Sixers signed Long to a multi-year deal on March 16 following the end of his 10-day contract. His contract is guaranteed for the remainder of this season but partially guaranteed after that, making every game an audition for the future.

The Sixers are down to three centers since the season-ending injury of Joel Embiid (see story), and just two when Jahlil Okafor is out. Long has slid into the backup (and sometimes backup-to-the-backup) role Holmes previously held.

"I think that Shawn Long has really grabbed his brief opportunities and been more than serviceable," Brett Brown said this week. "He's shown reasons why he should be considered a genuine NBA player."

Long's numbers, standing alone, aren't jaw-dropping. Taking a closer look, though, they are efficient. In seven games this month, Long is averaging 5.8 points (shooting 59.3 percent from the field) and 3.5 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

In Wednesday's loss to the Thunder, Long led the Sixers with six rebounds (in a game they were held to a season-low 25 boards) and 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Seven of those minutes came in the first half, so this wasn't just a case of getting a run in a fourth-quarter blowout situation.

On Monday, Long spread his contributions across the stat sheet in the Sixers' overtime loss to the Magic: four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 11 minutes.

Going back to Sunday's 105-99 win over the Celtics, he played a key role in the Sixers' third-quarter push that cut a double-digit deficit to only three points heading into the fourth. He posted eight points and three rebounds in 5:52 during the third.

Long has to watch his foul trouble as he gets adjusted to defending NBA opponents. He is averaging 4.7 personal fouls in 11.0 minutes over the last three games.

Long also continues to focus on his three-point shooting to stretch the floor. He is just 2 for 3 from three as a Sixer. On Wednesday, he worked on long-range drills with Holmes after shootaround.

With the skills he has and those he is honing, Long could be the latest member of the Sixers to make a name for himself by maximizing playing time when he receives it.

"Isn't it fantastic -- as we've seen over the years, opportunity uncovers different qualities in people," Brown said.