Last season, Joel Embiid gave NBA fans a glimpse of his incredible skill set.
In just 25.4 minutes per game, he amazingly averaged 20.2 points on 46.6 percent shooting (including 36.7 percent from three) along with 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks.
However, the injury bug hit him yet again in the middle of his rookie campaign when he tore the meniscus in his left knee in late January, limiting him to just 31 games played. He underwent surgery on March 24 to repair it. He had previously missed his first two NBA seasons with injuries.
But, it appears as though the big man is ready to make his return for the season opener which would allow Philly fans to fully “trust the process” as he will join back-to-back first overall picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz along with J.J. Redick and a young core.
According to an Associated Press report, Embiid was officially cleared for five-on-five drills and participated in a full practice with the Sixers on Thursday.
In typical fashion for the Twitter comic, Embiid made the announcement that he’s back on the court in only the way that he could.
Further, the team is hopeful that Embiid will be in the starting five on opening night. But, it is very possible that he will be on a strict minutes limit until he proves that he can maintain his health.
“I trust them, but at the same time, I have a voice, too,” Embiid said of the team’s cautious medical staff on Thursday, per Sarah Todd and Keith Pompey of Philly.com. “I think they value my opinion. It’s about us being on the same page.”
It doesn’t appear as though Embiid is on board with waiting until opening night in order to make his first game appearance of the season. “I would like to play preseason because last year it helped me get in a groove … and to get back to the dominant player that I want to be,” he said.
According to Todd and Pompey, it appears as though coach Brett Brown has been tailoring his practices solely around Embiid’s abilities, thus eliminating any suggestion of chemistry or preparation issues.
“Brown has been configuring practices around the limitations of Embiid. When the center was able to play 5-on-5 only in half-court, most of the practices were structured in a half-court setting. So now that Embiid is able to go full-bore, the whole dynamic has changed for the team,” the duo reported.
They continued, “Not only do the logistics of offense and defense change during practice when Embiid is on the floor, but the energy of the gym is different. Embiid is integral to the team’s goals, and the Sixers’ success largely hinges on his health and ability to play.”
While Embiid’s production will undoubtedly help the team whenever he’s on the court, the team will still likely be cautious as they attempt to get him through a full season without any substantial injury this year. Nonetheless, it is a positive that he's expected to be in the starting five against the Washington Wizards on October 18.