Slimmer Joel Embiid talks the plan to stay healthy and why he trusts it

Slimmer Joel Embiid talks the plan to stay healthy and why he trusts it

Joel Embiid did not want to divulge his weight Monday at the Sixers’ media day at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey, though he did reveal it is 20 pounds less than it was at the end of last season.

“I lost 25 [this summer], and then I put on another five … of muscle,” he said with a coy smile.  
Embiid, for the most part, said everything you’d want to hear if you’re a Sixers fan frustrated at his history of injury and fitness problems. The way he began his explanation of the habits he’d changed in order to drop those 20 pounds, however, was a little curious. 

“I haven’t done anything differently,” he said. “I just try to eat the right way, cut out anything bad. I’ve just been extremely focused on what I have to do and I still have a long way to go. I’m not at my goal yet.”

Clearly, Embiid made a few changes in order to lose the weight he did. For what it’s worth — perhaps not much — Embiid is listed at 260 pounds in the Sixers’ official media guide. He aims to be 25 pounds lighter than the weight he finished last year at. 

He expressed in clear terms why his fitness is important and what he thinks he’s capable of if he makes it through a full season healthy. 

I feel like my focus when it comes to being in the gym, taking care of my body, making sure I’m strong — I feel like it’s been on another level the whole summer. I’ve definitely been more focused than ever because I feel like if I take care of that stuff, basketball is going to be easier, I guess. … I can’t accomplish winning 60 games or Defensive Player of the Year if I don’t take care of my body. So, I think the main thing is just adopting a new mindset, a different mindset, when it comes to taking care of my body. And the rest is going to take care of itself.

The left knee tendinitis that caused his status throughout the playoffs to be a constant source of consternation is no longer an issue, Embiid said, after rehabilitation this summer. His offseason work was in part motivated by his desire to be less prone to such injuries in the future.

“You can’t control when you’re going to get sick or when you’re not going to get sick, but all I can do is just making sure I do the right things and eat the right things,” Embiid said. “But, I mean, I just try to do what I can do best. I had a knee problem, tendinitis. I had to get stronger.”

The notion that Embiid wants to accomplish great things is no incredible revelation. Defensive Player of the Year and MVP are two personal achievements he thinks can coincide with the Sixers earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. What Embiid had to say about the plan to keep him healthy and why he’s more inclined to trust it in the past, though, was perhaps more interesting.

Among the notable moves the Sixers made this summer was hiring Lorena Torres as their performance director. Torres, who last worked with the San Antonio Spurs, will “oversee sports science, strength and conditioning, psychology, nutrition and load management, among other areas," according to the team.

Embiid played 54 of the Sixers’ first 58 games last season and led the league in minutes through the first few weeks. He knows replicating that load would not be prudent.

“We had some type of load management specialist come in to just figure out all the math and analytics,” he said. “And then we just figured out together what’s best for me and the way to do it. If I remember correctly, last year from the beginning I played a lot of minutes and it might’ve affected me, so this year we’ve gotta have a different approach.”

He wouldn’t put an exact number on the amount of games he expects to play, though Embiid did say he plans to play more than the 64 games he did last year. There’s an ongoing dialogue, however, and it sounds like one Embiid feels much better about engaging in than in years past.

I’ve always tried to make them understand me, and they do understand me. Especially Elton [Brand], they’ve created that relationship with me where we can trust each other. With the past GM, it wasn’t like that. I think the key is to stay consistent. Them finding a way for me to miss a game when we have two or three days off is not a good idea, because three or four days without doing anything is a lot. And maybe it’s just my body type or maybe it’s because I’m African, but it basically takes me about a day to lose it a little bit. We’ve just gotta stay consistent. With the play I have this year and how many games I’m going to play, and the minutes, I feel pretty confident that I’m going to reach higher levels. 

The prospect of confiding in Brand does indeed appear more comfortable than trusting Bryan Colangelo, whose tenure ended in a scandal involving burner Twitter accounts revealing confidential medical information and disparaging players. This plan — or process, if you will — seems an easier one to trust. 

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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

NBC Sports Philadelphia/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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