CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid spent two years rehabbing his foot to return to the court. Now that he is back, there is more to the season than just being healthy.
For the countless hours Embiid poured into his recovery, there was no replicating the grind of real game action until he physically experienced it.
“I’m getting there,” Embiid said following practice Tuesday. “I would say health-wise I’m 200 percent, but as far as game-shape-wise I would say I’m not 100 percent. I still get tired.”
The Sixers eased Embiid into NBA action with a 12-minute restriction, of which he played in three- to four-minute segments. Over five preseason games, his minutes have increased to 20. The team has discussed utilizing him up to 24 for the first game of the season on Oct. 26.
Embiid played 5½ minutes to start the last game against the Pistons, a range he is comfortable with at this point. The Sixers have not discussed increasing those spurts with him.
“I don’t think I’m ready to play eight minutes straight yet,” Embiid said. “It’s going to take time, getting back in shape and getting used to the speed of the game. I’m already getting used to the five-minute clumps I’ve been playing.”
Embiid is confident he can improve his conditioning. He looks forward to drills and scrimmages in which he can push himself.
“It starts in practice,” Embiid said. “Running the floor, playing every possession, try to take less breaks, which I did today and yesterday. My legs are still heavy so after that I have to take care of my body, get in the cold tub. It’s a process, and you’ve got to trust it.”
Embiid also is working to lose weight. He said last week he would like to get under 270 pounds to start the regular season (see story).
“I think he’s really trying to push himself,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “I feel like he is on track to arrive to opening night in a really good place. We always want more. I think his weight is good. I think his attention to the recovery is an A-plus.”
Embiid (and five others) went through modified training during practice on Tuesday. The team did not scrimmage (see story). Embiid is averaging 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 14.2 minutes this preseason.