SACRAMENTO -- Pregame locker room buzz centered around Joel Embiid and the mega-deal he inked Monday in Philly. After just 31 games played over three years, the 76ers paid their 23-year-old center a whopping $148 million over five years.
Embiid’s talent has never been in question. Taken with the third overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, the 7-footer out of Kansas can do it all. In his limited action, he’s posted 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per night.
But a series of injuries, beginning with a stress fracture in his lower back during his lone season with the Jayhawks has put his career in a holding pattern. While going through the draft process, Embiid broke his right foot and needed a second surgery on the same foot a year later when the break didn’t heal.
He was the odds on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year trophy last season before a knee injury shut him down in late January. Back, foot and knee ailments are the big man trifecta, but still, the Sixers are banking on his tremendous potential.
Sacramento has a rookie that is watching the Embiid situation closely from afar. Despite going through warmups with the team on Monday night and being healthy enough to make it through training camp, 19-year-old Harry Giles won’t suit up in a game for the Kings until January at the earliest.
“Congrats to him, he’s an amazing player and he deserves every bit of it,” Giles said of Embiid. “For a guy who’s been through injury like myself and understand how hard it is to bounce back and have the performances he’s had is incredible.”
Giles has a unique perspective. He was the no. 1 high school player in the country and on his way to superstardom when a series of knee injuries hit. First, an ACL and MCL tear in his left knee between his freshman and sophomore season put him on the shelf. One game into his senior year, he tore the ACL in his left knee and before his freshman year at Duke, he underwent a scope on the left knee to clean it up.
Embiid’s path isn’t one that anyone would choose, but the outcome is encouraging for a young player like Giles.
“For me, how can I not be motivated,” Giles said. “I’m in the same kind of position as him in a way, coming off of injuries and kind of having a slow and having to be patient and thinking long-term.”
With plenty of time to watch for the bench, Giles is working with the Kings’ medical and training staff to build strength in his core and legs. They will re-examine his knees in January, which is the two-year mark from his second ACL injury.
“I’m going in, just working hard to just develop myself the best I can - my body and my game,” Giles said.
While the trainers are doing their work, the coaching staff will attempt to build his knowledge and understanding of the game. He will participate in practices, where the club can control as many variables as possible and there is hope that he will see court time before the season is done.
For now, Giles will have plenty of time on his hands to think about his path forward. He see’s the value in the Kings’ cautious approach and looks forward to proving himself the same way that Embiid has.