CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.
Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff.
He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break?
“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”
In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason.
“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.”
With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so.
“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”
As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size.
“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.”
Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break.
“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”
That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position.
“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can.
“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years.
“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”
Watch Embiid running the floor here: