Em­biid claims he’s ready to be ‘a com­plete player’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack Mc­Caf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

CAM­DEN, N.J. >> Joel Em­biid, ru­mored since 2014 to be com­ing to the NBA, fi­nally will play a lit­tle for­mal bas­ket­ball Tues­day.

Cleared by doc­tors to par­tic­i­pate af­ter a two-year or­deal with foot trou­ble, Em­biid will prac­tice with the Six­ers as they be­gin train­ing camp at Stock­ton Univer­sity in Pomona, N.J. More, Em­biid an­nounced Mon­day that he would play in the Six­ers’ pre­sea­son opener, Oct. 4, against the Bos­ton Celtics in Amherst, Mass.

“I am re­ally ex­cited,” said Em­biid, dur­ing me­dia day at the Six­ers’ new prac­tice fa­cil­ity. “I have gone through a lot. It has been two years. And the fact is that I am healthy now and ready to get back on the court ... I can’t wait.”

So on the court, the 7-0, 275-pound cen­ter will be Tues­day. How of­ten the third over­all pick in the 2014 draft will ac­tu­ally play games, how­ever, re­mains un­set­tled.

“I just don’t know that right now,” gen­eral man­ager Bryan Colan­gelo said. “The med­i­cal team and med­i­cal ex­perts have said there will prob­a­bly be some re­stric­tions, whether they are min­utes re­stric­tions or re­stric­tions on back-to-back games.

“It’s safe to as­sume he will not be play­ing in back-to­backs.”

That would be the un­set­tling news for the Six­ers. As for a pos­i­tive, ev­i­dently the two years of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion has made Em­biid quite the bas­ket­ball stylist.

“I think of my­self as a com­plete player, be­ing able to score the ball if needed and to add a de­fen­sive pres­ence,” he said. “And the coaches want me to be a play­maker. So I see my­self as a com­plete player. I still have to work on my game and per­fect it. But I see my­self as a con­fi­dent player.”

Mon­day, Em­biid was con­fi­dent enough to an­nounce his de­sire to be named as the NBA’s De­fen­sive Player of the Year and to have a 20year ca­reer.

While Em­biid will be in a struc­tured bas­ket­ball set­ting Tues­day, one that may or may not be vis­i­ble to the me­dia, he has par­tic­i­pated re­cently in in­for­mal games at the prac­tice cen­ter.

“I had a chance to test my­self against all the guys who have been in the gym and I have been do­ing pretty good,” he said. “My game has got­ten so much bet­ter than what I was two years ago. It’s not even close.

“I had a chance to shoot a lot. So my shoot­ing im­proved. I’ve got­ten stronger, faster and quicker. I have to thank the coach­ing staff for mak­ing sure I was do­ing the right things. It will be re­ally in­ter­est­ing when the sea­son starts.” *** Ben Sim­mons, the No. 1 over­all pick in the last NBA draft, at­tended the Ea­gles game Sun­day. There, he saw Car­son Wentz, the No. 2 over­all pick in the last NFL draft, thriv­ing and de­light­ing Philadel­phia fans.

At the min­i­mum, that gave him ideas.

“I watched him and he played real level-headed,” Sim­mons said. “He kept calm. I can learn a lot from him. They def­i­nitely didn’t do well last sea­son, but they are 3-0 and are do­ing great. And for a rookie to come in and do that, it’s spe­cial.

“They love sports here. There’s no ques­tion about that. It means a lot see peo­ple wear my jersey around Philly. It’s kind of weird see­ing my name and num­ber. I just hope to give some­thing back to Philly and just work hard.”

Ev­i­dently, he has done that, say­ing that he was around 217 pounds at the time of the draft and since has grown to 250, adding to his po­ten­tial.

“Po­ten­tial is one of those words that can go down or up,” he said. “There is a lot of ‘po­ten­tial.’ But I have to put in work. Be­cause if I don’t put in the work, it won’t mat­ter.”

*** Jahlil Okafor, whose rookie sea­son ended with a knee in­jury last Feb. 28, is at full health.

“I feel good,” he said. “I was re­cov­er­ing, try­ing to get back to 110 per­cent. And I was able to do that. I feel re­ally good. I am stay­ing dis­ci­plined with my diet. And I am try­ing to be at my ca­reerbest fit­ness.”

*** NOTES >> The Six­ers will be train­ing at Stock­ton from Tues­day through Fri­day ... El­ton Brand, re-signed as much for his vet­eran’s pres­ence as for his abil­ity to reg­is­ter the oc­ca­sional dou­ble­dou­ble, will try to set­tle Ner­lens Noel, who isn’t thrilled with the Six­ers’ de­ci­sion to cram him into a cen­ter depth chart with both Em­biid and Okafor. “He is not hold­ing the best cards right now,” Brand said. “But let the chips fall. Don’t be an out­sider. Be a part of the group. You are go­ing to play. The best play­ers are go­ing to play. He is go­ing to have the abil­ity to get min­utes.”


Joel Em­biid, is con­fi­dent he’s healthy enough to fi­nally show off his stuff. And Em­biid thinks he’s a much bet­ter player now than he was in col­lege.

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