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Sixers’ Sam Hinkie: Joel Embiid should be ready for next season, not Summer League

For young players coming off major injuries, NBA Summer League games often become a first step back into action — real games (albeit sloppy ones), a chance to get some sweat and shake off some rust. A chance to feel like a basketball player again.

But that’s not where Joel Embiid will make his return, according to the Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, who spoke to the media Friday.

The Sixers’ No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft has missed the past two seasons following foot injuries, and right now he is at a specialized sports facility in Qatar doing rehab, Hinkie said. Yes, Qatar, the ridiculous home of the 2022 World Cup. Hinkie vouched for the facility, and said he expects Embiid to be ready to go at the start of next season.

“I’ve always been excited about him because he has rare gifts and a real chance to have a fantastic NBA career,” Hinkie said.

There are a lot of fans rolling their eyes at that, but a simple fact remains — he could be the best player on the Sixers roster. He is tone one guy scouts thought had superstar potential, more than Jahlil Okafor, it was just a matter of if he could stay healthy. That hasn’t happened so far, but it’s too early for the Sixers to give up on him.