Embiid: I Can't Wait To Get To Work

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer
@MaxRappaport

On Friday, Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie and Head Coach Brett Brown spoke to reporters about the acquisition of Kansas center Joel Embiid, expressing their excitement about adding the Cameroonian seven-footer. 

Monday, Embiid was introduced to the Philadelphia media via a conference call, voicing his own enthusiasm about being drafted by Philadelphia with the third-overall pick.

“It feels great. Ever since the Commissioner, Adam Silver, called my name I’ve been so happy,” he said. “I just realized my dream. I still can’t believe it, but I know it’s true. I’m excited, I’m happy, and I just can’t wait to get to work.”

Many expected Embiid to be selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the discovery of a stress fracture in his right foot one week before the draft complicated the matter. Experts projected the 20-year-old to be selected somewhere in the 1-7 range, but when the Sixers went on the clock at #3 and the talented big man was still on the board, the team jumped at the opportunity to add him.

"He's a remarkable talent that, in our minds, only in this scenario does he fall to 3," Hinkie told reporters on Friday. "If he can remain healthy, which I think there is a very, very good chance [of], he can have a fantastic NBA career."

In his lone season at Kansas, Embiid posted averages of 11.2 points (62.6 FG%), 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in just 23.1 minutes per game. His polished skills in the post combined with his massive frame, African descent, and the fact that he only began playing basketball competitively at age 16 have led some to draw comparisons to Nigerian-born center Hakeem Olajuwon, who himself picked up the sport as a 15-year-old.

“I love the way he played the game,” Embiid said of his idol, Olajuwon. “I obviously want to have a career like he had – he was a Hall of Famer. But I’m excited, and he motivates me every day.

“I’m going to do everything [I can] to have a great career, stay healthy, just take care of myself, and do some damage in the NBA. 

While Embiid recently underwent foot surgery, he says that Olajuwon has offered to work with him one-on-one when he returns to the floor.

“I haven’t met him yet, but I talked to him on the phone” Embiid said of his first conversation with the legendary center several weeks ago. “It was pretty funny, man. When he was talking to me, I was just excited, and I was just laughing the whole time. I don’t even remember what he said, I was just like, ‘Yeah… yeah.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

But beyond learning flashy post moves from Olajuwon, Embiid knows that the most important thing he must do before returning to the floor is to polish the areas of his game that need it most. It’s something that his new teammate, Nerlens Noel, did during his rookie season, fine-tuning the mechanics of his jump shot and adding healthy weight to his seven-foot frame despite missing the entire season while rehabbing following knee surgery. 

“I want to be a complete player, so I’m going to work on everything – rebounding passing, handling shooting,” Embiid said, adding that he feels he can play both power forward and center. “I want to be the kind of player that can do everything on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.”

When Embiid returns to action, he and Noel have the potential to form one of the most physically imposing frontcourt tandems in the league. It’s something that General Manager Sam Hinkie touched on following the draft.

“If in fact they do play together, which is what we anticipate, we’re going to be a menace at the rim, an absolute menace,” Hinkie said. “If you’re going to bring violence to the other team, that’s the place to do it.”

In the meantime, the Sixers’ coaching and training staffs will help Embiid continue to build upon the impressive foundation he’s laid for himself since picking up the sport four years ago. But first, the 20-year-old has some important business to attend to.

“I’m coming next week, so I’m excited. I’ve never been to Philly,” he said. “I like food, so the Philly Cheesesteak, I’m already on that. As soon as I get there, that’s the first thing I’m getting.”

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