Next step in Joel Embiid's evolution is disciplined preparation

A shade over 20 points, nearly eight rebounds and over two blocks per game — all on a minutes restriction after being sidelined for the previous two years because of foot injuries.

Joel Embiid dominated over 31 contests as a rookie last season. Yet, there still is room for development from the 23-year-old big man. As Sixers head coach Brett Brown sees it, some of the most significant growth will happen away from the court. 

“I think it has nothing to do really with his game. It’s not his jump hook. It’s not his defense. It’s his health,” Brown said last week while previewing his Coach’s Clinic. “Helping him better understand how to consistently play NBA basketball is most on my mind.”

Embiid underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery in late March to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He has not played in an NBA game since Jan. 28. There has been no definitive timetable set for his return this coming season. Embiid has been working out at the Sixers’ training complex, but he has not been participating in 5-on-5 activity. The objective of his rehab is to be healthy for opening night on Oct. 18. 

“To take basketball away, as it has been taken away because of injuries, there’s a sullenness, there’s a body language that you feel for him,” Brown said. “He’s had some rough luck. I see an excited player starting to come back. We sure will be excited to have him back.” 

Once again, Embiid will have to practice patience. He was limited to 28 minutes a night and held out of consecutive games last season. The Sixers have 14 pairs of back-to-backs on the 2017-18 schedule. It is unlikely Embiid will start the season without some type of restrictions. 

“The competitive side that Joel possesses is not to be denied,” Brown said. “Helping him really prepare his body, helping him be able to play NBA basketball in multiple games and back-to-backs, all those types of things, that’s a health thing, that’s a discipline thing.”

Embiid already proved what he can do on the floor. Next step, staying healthy for a full season.

“The preparation to go play a game, the pre-hab stuff, the discipline of getting yourself ready is always an evolution for any player,” Brown said. “Joel’s no different.”