AMHERST, Mass. -- Philadelphia center Joel Embiid will play in his first professional game tonight against the Boston Celtics after two years marred by injuries.
Having been sidelined for such a long period of time, it’s only natural for doubt to creep in at some point.
It got so bad for Embiid that there was a point in which he felt he needed to take some time away from the game altogether.
He said the low point came following the death of his brother in 2014.
“When my brother died, I didn’t feel too good about it when I went back home,” Embiid told reporters prior to Tuesday’s game against the Celtics. “And going through my injuries and going through that and … it was a little bit hard. I’m glad I’m here.”
So are the Sixers who view the former lottery pick as a key piece in their rebuilding efforts.
When asked whether he thought about giving up on the game altogether, Embiid said, “I wouldn’t say giving it up. I think I thought about taking time off; it was hard.”
Indeed, the road Embiid has taken has been a difficult one, the kind that few players can ever fully understand or appreciate for its level of difficulty.
Teammate Elton Brand understands all too well what Embiid is going through.
When Brand came into the NBA, he was the top overall pick in 1999 and the level of expectations for him and future success was high.
Brand is 38 years old now, well aware of his limitations on the floor due to Father Time.
But he provides experience and wisdom, both of which he shares often with Embiid.
“It’s a preseason game, but he’s gonna have butterflies like it’s the playoffs,” Brand told CSNNE.com. “My advice to him is just relax, never get too high with the highs and never get too low with the lows. Because in this league, you’re going to go through both.”
During those moments of doubt, Embiid said he eventually decided to go forward.
“My love for the game; I love playing,” he said. “I love competing. I’m a competitive guy. When you go through tough times like I did, ideas go through your head.”
The only ideas he's thinking about these days involve helping the Sixers become a better team with him (finally) healthy enough to contribute.