“I want to play more,” says Joel Embiid, “but it’s on them.”
“Them,” in this case, is the coaching staff of the Philadelphia 76ers, which is taking a cautionary approach with their young and talented Cameroonian center, who missed the past two NBA seasons because of a broken right foot.
Embiid is currently averaging 22 minutes a game, less than half of a regulation NBA contest, but even with restricted playing time, he’s showing he soon could develop into one of the league’s dominant players.
In Philadelphia’s first six regular season games, all losses, Embiid has averaged almost 18 points and seven rebounds each game.
The 76ers had the NBA’s worst record (10-72) last season, but with the 22-year-old Embiid teaming up with two other young big men, Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons, who are both 20-years-old, there is a sense that Philadelphia’s fortunes are about to change for the better.
Simmons was the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but like Embiid, he broke a bone in his right foot and is not expected to play until January. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James describes Simmons as “a great, young talent … and Philly should be excited to have him.”
Philly fans are also excited to finally see Joel Embiid on the court.
The 76ers picked Embiid third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, after he played one season at the University of Kansas.
The top pick in that draft was Andrew Wiggins, who was Embiid’s teammate at Kansas.
Wiggins won the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year award and has averaged almost 19 points a game in two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If he can stay healthy, Joel Embiid should emerge as a strong candidate for the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year award, and a franchise player for a struggling club that won its last championship in 1983 when Hall of Famers Moses Malone and Julius “Dr. J” Erving were the big stars.