CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid remembers what it was like being separated from the team while he rehabbed from foot injuries for two years. When New Year’s Eve rolled around, he wanted to make sure Ben Simmons didn’t feel the same way.
Simmons posted an Instagram photo from that night with Embiid, Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell and Nerlens Noel. The rookie had remained in Philadelphia while the team was on the Sixers' nine-day road trip and linked up with them when they returned from Denver. Embiid said the gathering came to be from texting one another.
“That’s something I feel like Ben is going to appreciate a lot because I was in that type of situation,” Embiid said. “When I was by myself I felt kind of left alone and when I had guys around me it just made me feel better.”
Consider it a way of paying it forward. Embiid recalls how much it meant to him when Noel made him feel welcome while he was sidelined.
“Nerlens, when I got to Philly, showed me around,” Embiid said. “At first when I was traveling on the road, I was always with him. You’ve also got the coaches, mainly (assistant director of player development) Chris Babcock, is always texting me, always with me. It was mainly Nerlens, we’ve been close since I got to Philly.”
Like Embiid and Simmons, Noel also was injured through his first year (ACL). Noel was on a more veteran team during the 2013-14 season. Players reached out to make him feel part of the group.
“Those guys were all good guys,” Noel said. “They were a little older than me. We had Thaddeus (Young), he was a great vet to me. E.T.’s (Evan Turner) a funny, funny guy. Guys kept me included.”
Brett Brown broke out in a smile when he was informed of the photograph during media availability Monday. He has been emphasizing the importance of team chemistry to keep moving forward during the Sixers' ups and downs.
“That’s fantastic,” Brown said after taking a look at the post. “I really like stuff like that. You know how important is it to all of us to grow a continuity, a family. When you have people in and out, in and out, and people’s future are uncertain, words end up cheap.
“To grow that type of thing off the floor is the holy grail. You combine that work they’re doing on the floor with stuff where they interact and coexist, it’s not the be all or end all, but it certainly helps. That stuff is very pleasing to me.”
The friendships among players have been highlighted this season. Embiid has cited his relationships with both Noel and Jahlil Okafor as reasons for wanting to be paired together. Embiid also chimed in on Simmons’ recent Instagram Live.
“It’s super natural,” Noel said of the relationships. “These guys are funny characters that like to just hang out and have a good time. They’re real genuine young men that come in and get their work done and just chill.”