CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid was his usual colorful self during Sixers media day Friday.
The charismatic Cameroonian, sporting a svelter figure, joked about dunking on his new GM (see video) and talked about his goals for this season.
The biggest thing for Embiid: he’s finally healthy and feeling good going into camp.
“I worked on everything,” Embiid said at the team’s practice facility. “This whole summer was more about working on my body and I feel like I’m a complete player. It was always about just perfecting everything because I’m not perfect. I still make a lot of mistakes and I’m still kind of young in basketball.”
While Embiid’s body is healthy, he still feels the sting of last season’s playoff loss to the Celtics. The issues that plagued Embiid during the regular season reared their ugly head. His tendency to force things created turnovers for Boston and his fitness level wasn’t high enough for a physical playoff series.
A slimmed down and more toned Embiid took the podium Friday, supremely confident that he had helped remedy some of his issues with the help of training guru Drew Hanlen.
“I watched every game from this past season — playoffs included — probably twice,” Embiid said. “Especially that last game, I watched a lot. That game, the layup that I missed to tie the game … I watched it all and it was painful, but I have one goal in mind. Like I said, I was excited to go into the summer finally healthy and we’re going to see what happens this year.”
Embiid was active this summer. From dunking on random dudes on blacktops around the city to participating in the NBA Africa Game to trying to (unsuccessfully) win a fan $25K at a Drake concert, the All-Star center never stopped.
But all along, his focus was on basketball and taking his game to the next level. Sure, he was disappointed the Sixers couldn’t land LeBron James or another star-caliber player, but it’s just served as motivation.
Embiid has already stated on more than one occasion that he expects to be an MVP candidate. With the goals he has set out for the team, he’ll need to be one.
“An appearance in the NBA Finals and winning it all,” Embiid said when asked of aspirations this season. “I feel like we’ve got the talent to make it happen. Last year was unfortunate, but it’s behind us. I think this year we’ll be much better and we added a couple pieces. It’s going to be exciting.”
Embiid’s huge personality is only outdone by his dominance on the court. He’s always talked a big game, even when he’s been sidelined with injuries. But the big man has always backed it up.
It’s easy to see why fans have fallen in love with Embiid and why he’s returned that admiration. From the time he was drafted out of Kansas and his two subsequent missed seasons because of injury, this fan base has, by and large, had his back.
“I always feel like I have a good connection with the fans,” Embiid said. “It’s not just on the court, it’s also off the court. I appreciate them, definitely, and I think they appreciate me a lot, too, so we both have a mutual respect. I love it.
“I envisioned myself being in this situation when I got to Philly. That’s the place I want to be for the rest of my career. I’m excited. We’ve got a great connection. I’ve got a lot of love for the city and a great connection with the Sixers.”