Cleveland Cavaliers

Joel Embiid was almost drafted by Cavaliers, thought Milwaukee was ‘corny’

Joel Embiid was almost drafted by Cavaliers, thought Milwaukee was ‘corny’

Can you imagine Joel Embiid in Cleveland?

In his book Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports, Yaron Weitzman details just how close Embiid was to being taken first overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

Weitzman describes an Embiid pre-draft workout with the Cavs that showcased strength, skill and the big man’s signature bravado. Embiid implored then-Cavs GM David Griffin to take him No. 1 as he swished three-pointer after three-pointer, according to Weitzman.

Smiles swept across the faces of Griffin and the rest of the Cavaliers brain trust. Griffin would later tell people that it was the best workout he'd ever seen. "He was like the second coming of Hakeem," he'd say. His mind was made. "He told us there he was taking Joel No. 1," said Francois Nyam, one of Embiid's agents at the time.

The next morning, Embiid woke up with pain in his right foot, which was later revealed to be a fractured navicular bone. 

The Cavs’ doctors “wouldn’t give [Griffin] the green light," and Cleveland ultimately went with Andrew Wiggins. As for the Bucks, who ended up selecting Jabari Parker at No. 2, Embiid was not interested.

Weitzman writes that Embiid told Nyam of Milwaukee, “That place is corny.”

Though Embiid wanted to fall to the Lakers at No. 7, Weitzman says he “bought in” to the Sixers, who took him at No. 3, waited two seasons for an injured Embiid and, with Sam Hinkie no longer in the picture, eventually watched him become a three-time All-Star. 

You can read an excerpt from Weitzman’s book on Bleacher Report here and purchase it here.

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Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

Updated: 10:16 p.m. 

The Sixers haven’t won a road game since Jan. 20, both of their All-Stars are injured and, if the playoffs started tonight, they would not have home court advantage. In short, things could be going much better.

Joel Embiid sustained a left shoulder sprain Wednesday night and the Sixers dropped to 36-23 with a 108-94 loss to the Cavaliers. They play the Knicks tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Center.

Here are observations on the loss: 

First Simmons, now Embiid 

Embiid grimaced after a collision off the ball with Ante Zizic late in the first quarter, feeling at the area around his left shoulder. He took and missed both free throws after the foul call, seemingly in significant pain, then left the game and went back to the locker room. 

Early in the second quarter, Embiid briefly returned to the bench before again heading to the locker room. After a short conversation with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson, he appeared to have a discussion in the tunnel with GM Elton Brand, who said before the season that he’d “be more a part of it with the players in a partnership for their care.”

The team announced at halftime that Embiid was out for the game. 

Embiid’s injury is bad news for the Sixers regardless of the circumstances, but it’s obviously even worse in the context of Ben Simmons being sidelined with a nerve impingement in his lower back. 

It was certainly possible to picture an Embiid-centric team thriving without Simmons, especially given that the Sixers have the third-easiest remaining schedule in the league. If both their All-Stars are out for an extended period of time, though, it would be a massive hit.

There are a heap of fair criticisms one can have about the Sixers this season — Brand’s decision to spend as much money as he did on Horford and Harris, other complementary pieces not doing enough, abysmal efforts on the road, you name it. However, having your second All-Star get hurt two days after he scored a career-high 49 points and the day after announcing the diagnosis of your other All-Star’s injury is just very bad luck. 

After the game, Embiid told The Inquirer's Keith Pompey that he will have an MRI tomorrow. 

Secondary options not close to good enough 

With Embiid out, the Sixers needed Harris and Horford to carry a bigger load.

Neither player was up for the task. 

Harris, whose status changed from doubtful to questionable to available for Monday’s game with a right knee contusion, did not look explosive and shot 4 of 13.

Horford made a few nice passes, had three steals and hit two threes, but he wasn’t nearly as good as the Sixers needed him to be, with 10 points in 34 minutes. 

It wasn’t a strong night for Josh Richardson (nine points on 4 of 12 shooting), either.

Norvel Pelle was out for a second straight game with an upper respiratory illness, which led the Sixers to play Kyle O’Quinn as their backup center. In his first action during a close game since Jan. 20, Quinn had six points, four blocks and two rebounds. 

O’Quinn reportedly wanted to be waived, but perhaps Embiid’s injury will shift his thinking. Players must be waived by March 1 in order to retain playoff eligibility in the event they’re picked up by another team that season. We looked at available guards that might be interest the Sixers today (see story).

Milton starts again 

Shake Milton was the Sixers’ starting point guard, as he had been Monday vs. the Hawks.

The 23-year-old didn’t start the game well, allowing Darius Garland to hit his first three shots. Though the defensive drop-off from Simmons to Milton is substantial, Milton was a bright spot offensively, picking the right spots to attack and knocking down 4 of 6 threes. 

He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. If you’d like a positive in a situation that currently looks rather bleak, Milton is a good choice. 

Richardson and Alec Burks (13 points on 6 of 12 shooting) split up backup ball handling duties. 

A terrible 1st half 

The Cavs scored 30 of the game’s first 36 points in the paint. The Sixers missed a handful of open looks inside early, including a very easy fast break Horford layup attempt off a long pass from Milton. They made just 11 of their first 36 field goals and 2 of their first 12 threes. 

No Sixer played especially well in the first half, and yet the team only trailed by 11 points. With all due respect to the 17-win Cavs, who did beat the Heat on Monday, the deficit would surely have been worse if the Sixers were playing a decent opponent. 

Embiid’s injury played a part in these particular early road struggles, but a team that is 27-2 at home should simply not be 9-21 on the road.

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid exits game vs. Cavs with shoulder injury

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid exits game vs. Cavs with shoulder injury

Updated: 10:05 p.m.

Already down Ben Simmons, the last thing the Sixers needed was an injury to their other All-Star.

Joel Embiid suffered a left shoulder sprain, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters, and did not return vs. the Cavs. He went back to the locker room with a left shoulder injury after he was fouled by Ante Zizic late in the first quarter in Cleveland. 

Embiid and the Cavs’ big man got tangled up and Embiid came up grabbing his shoulder. He then went on to miss both free throws and grimaced the entire time. Furkan Korkmaz purposefully committed a foul to get Embiid back to the locker room. Embiid briefly came back to the bench, but was then summoned by head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson back to the locker room. It appeared GM Elton Brand was waiting for him in the tunnel.

After the game, Embiid was wearing a sling on the injured shoulder in the locker room, according to Winters. He'll have an MRI Thursday, per Keith Pompey of the Inquirer.

The Sixers were already without Simmons, who was diagnosed with nerve impingement in his lower back. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks, per a team spokesperson.

The team was also without Norvel Pelle, who is dealing with an upper respiratory illness. That left Al Horford and Kyle O’Quinn as the only players that can play as true NBA fives. Horford struggled while O'Quinn was solid in his first real action since Jan. 20.

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