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The Philadelphia 76ers are once again entering the season with Joel Embiid on the shelf.
The Sixers took Embiid with the third pick in the 2014 draft with high expectations, despite a fractured bone in his foot that would cause him to miss several months.
As the season went on, though, it became clear Embiid wouldn’t play his rookie season as his rehab took a long time.
Things got worse in the offseason when Embiid reportedly had a setback on the same foot and would require surgery expected to keep him out for a second straight season.
According to Brian Geltzeiler on SI’s The Cauldron, Embiid hardly helped matters. Geltzeiler reports that the 76ers have struggled handling Embiid, who seems to have some attitude concerns and seems uninterested in taking care of himself. A few noteworthy things include:
- Embiid got into a confrontation with a strength coach and threatened him, causing coach Brett Brown to send him home early from a road trip. Embiid is unwilling to talk to Sixers brass about workouts and rehab updates. Embiid eats poorly. After gaining weight last year (which he eventually lost), 76ers employees stock his refrigerator with healthy foods. Geltzeiler says they usually end up throwing it away because Embiid doesn’t eat it. Embiid’s room service bills often include pitchers of Shirley Temples. At games, Embiid has “frequently been seen feasting” on hot dogs and chicken fingers.
As Geltzeiler notes, it’s not unusual for a 21-year-old to have bad eating habits or lack maturity.
What is extremely troublesome is that the 76ers reportedly struggled to get Embiid to wear a walking boot on his surgically repaired foot last year. Some people believe that his refusal to do so may have created the need for a second surgery.
Embiid’s lax approach to his rehab and the circumstances surrounding the second foot surgery he needed this past summer … has caused the organization much anxiety. The simple task of getting Embiid to consistently wear his walking boot was a challenge for the franchise, and multiple sources suggested that some people in Philadelphia’s front office wonder whether a second surgery would have been necessary if Embiid had worn the boot as much as he was told to.
Geltzeiler added that the Sixers didn’t want Embiid to go to Las Vegas for Summer League this year, which Embiid did anyway. While there, he was supposed to wear a walking boot, but did not, and reportedly carried on practicing, shooting jumpers, and dunking. According to Geltzeiler, some people believe Embiid actually re-broke his foot while there instead of just having a setback.
During the summer, there was a lengthy amount of time between the report of the setback and actual surgery, which Geltzeiler says may have been due to the Vegas trip. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie had a refreshing approach to the delay, however, saying it was about Embiid finding doctors he liked and getting comfortable with the procedure.
The situation with Embiid is alarming at this point, however. He’s had two surgeries in two years on the same foot, and hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA yet. Given some of the attitude problems that Geltzeiler reports, plus the learning curve Embiid will face when he’s healthy enough to play, it seems like he’s a long way off from being the franchise center Philadelphia hoped for.