CAMDEN, N.J. — In Joel Embiid’s ideal situation, he would play 48 minutes in all 82 games.
His reality is different than that, however. As he works his way back from left knee surgery, he understands he won’t be on the court as much as he would like.
“If I could play 82 games, I would,” Embiid said Monday at Sixers media day. “But I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll play 82 games. That’s not happening … I’m just focused on my path to being back on the court.”
Embiid underwent a procedure in late March to repair a torn meniscus, ending his standout rookie year after just 31 games. He has not been cleared for 5-on-5 and it remains to be seen if he will compete in any preseason contests.
Embiid said if the Sixers were in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals situation, he would play. But they’re not. Their push for a playoff berth is just beginning.
“I think the timetable, we’ve been focusing on the first game of the season,” Embiid said of the Sixers' Oct. 18 opener against the Wizards. “We’ve got a couple preseason games, might play in those. But if I’m not 100 percent, they’re not going to put me out there. It’s not just about rehabbing. It’s also about being in the best shape possible, which I’m not yet at that level.”
Embiid has undergone multiple scans since his surgery and said of the results, “Everything looks perfect.” Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said the recent scans showed the joint to be “intact and structurally sound.” The Sixers expect Embiid to participate in drills during training camp.
“All in all, I believe our medical team feels good about where things are,” Colangelo said.
Embiid is honed in on improving and maintaining his health by working on his landings to avoid further injuries. He threw his 7-foot-2, 250-pound frame around the court last season, including flying out of bounds into the stands.
“I fell a lot last year,” he said. “I think it was also because I was flopping.”
The uncertainty of Embiid’s health during training camp likely will factor into an important decision that has to be made in only a few weeks. The Sixers and Embiid have until Oct. 16 to sign a contract extension.
“I still remain cautiously optimistic that something could get done,” Colangelo said. “That’s not to say it will, but I’m cautiously optimistic that remains a possibility.”
Embiid firmly debunked a report by 94WIP's Howard Eskin he has not been participating in 5-on-5 because a deal had not been reached. He noted his love for the game and how difficult it is to get him off the court, let alone him refusing to get on it at all.
“No,” Embiid said, chalking the report up to starting controversy. “At the end of the day, I don’t have the leverage. I’m going into my fourth season and I’m going to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no leverage, they can do whatever they want. There’s been discussions about it. Hopefully, something does work out.
“I’m worried about getting back on the court and that’s all I care about. If it happens, it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, just got to keep focused on the fourth season and after this year I’ll be a free agent and we’re going to see what comes of it.”
Training camp begins Tuesday, when Embiid will have the opportunity to return to basketball with his teammates, even if it is in a limited and closely-monitored role.
"I've got to check a couple boxes before my first game of the season," he said. "That's what I intend to do."