Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing it ‘safe’: Embiid chooses NBA’s millions

Kansas center Joel Embiid, right, walks past a collage in the northwest corner of Allen Fieldhouse behind assistant athletics director Chris Theisen following a news conference on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse in which he announced his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Kansas center Joel Embiid, right, walks past a collage in the northwest corner of Allen Fieldhouse behind assistant athletics director Chris Theisen following a news conference on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse in which he announced his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.


Joel Embiid declares for NBA Draft

Kansas University freshman center Joel Embiid, with KU coach Bill Self by his side, announces he will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self: Joel Embiid a 'guaranteed' top-five pick in NBA Draft

After Kansas University freshman center Joel Embiid announced he was entering the NBA Draft, KU coach Bill Self said it was a difficult decision for the 7-footer because he "loves it here," but Embiid made the right choice as he is "guaranteed" to be one of the top five picks.

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Reader poll

If you had the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, who would you take?

  • Joel Embiid, Kansas 63% 1368 votes
  • Dante Exum, Australia 1% 23 votes
  • Jabari Parker, Duke 8% 181 votes
  • Julius Randle, Kentucky 4% 104 votes
  • Andrew Wiggins, Kansas 20% 431 votes
  • Other 1% 39 votes

2146 total votes.

Kansas University freshman Joel Embiid spoke several times the past couple of weeks with his friend and mentor, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He chatted once with retired NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, as well as Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Embiid, the 7-footer from Cameroon who announced his intention to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft on Wednesday in a news conference in Allen Fieldhouse, also consulted with his mom and dad and Jayhawk coach Bill Self.

“They didn’t tell me what to do. They just gave me the advantages and disadvantages,” said the 20-year-old Embiid, who weighed the words of wisdom, and came up with his decision on Sunday.

The decision he slept on for three nights— to be a one-and-done player in college — apparently boiled down to a few simple factors.

“If college was paying $5 million a year and the NBA was paying $5 million a year, there’s no question what he would have done, but I think the financial opportunity was too great,” said Self, who sat next to Embiid in front of a throng of media members.

As No. 3 pick in the 2014 Draft, Embiid would make $3,689,700 next season, followed by payments of $3,855,800 and $4,021,800 his next two years in the league.

“We talked about, ‘At this rate you’ve improved over a short period of time, think about what you could be a year from now,’” Self said of Embiid being a polished pro player as soon as the second half of his rookie season. “The whole thing is, being a top-five pick this year is guaranteed. What happens if something bad happens next year (in college)? I think that was the whole deal. It was the safe play in my mind.”

Embiid said the “safe play” had nothing to do with his current injury — a stress fracture in his back that kept him from playing in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

“My back is fine. I’m close to being 100 percent,” said Embiid, who has returned to the court.

Self said it’s likely Embiid would have played against Dayton in the Sweet 16 had KU been able to beat Stanford in the Round of 32.

“The doctors told me my stress fracture wasn’t a problem. There’s no problem. I’m good,” Embiid said.

What’s bad is the fact Embiid will never experience NCAA Tournament action.

“He loves it here, loves college and the people around him,” Self said. “Sometimes when you don’t have your family close, you get even closer to the people with you. That’s what made it a hard decision. I also think not playing in the tournament made it a hard decision. The reason great players come (to KU) is to play on the biggest stage. He didn’t get an opportunity to do that. That was something in his mind that leaves the college deal a little bit incomplete.”

Of the NCAA Tourney, Embiid said: “I was obviously frustrated (not playing), but, I mean, it’s life, and my back wasn’t good enough for me to play. I was very frustrated. I wish I could have played.”

Embiid added that it was a tough decision to leave because, “I really love this place. The fans were crazy, just watching them before every game, three days before every game camping out. For me it means a lot. They showed me nothing but love.”

As far as Embiid’s loved ones who helped him make the decision ...

“I felt like the information that my mentor gave me, doesn’t mean that it was the best, but, I mean, I just felt comfortable, and I always trusted him. I always had the trust in him. Since I came here, he’s always helped me, so I just felt confident trusting in what he was saying,” Embiid said of fellow Cameroon native Mbah a Moute, who stressed Embiid would definitely be a top-five pick, meaning he’ll be set for life financially the day he signs on the dotted line.

Of his parents, who did not make it in from Cameroon for the news conference, Embiid said: “Obviously they don’t live here, so I talked to them to see what they wanted me to do. The decision was mine, so I was just gathering information (from them),” he said, not revealing specifics.

And of Hall of Famer Olajuwon, who called a few days ago, Embiid said: “I mean, I was really excited because it’s my favorite player of all time, my idol, so I was just on the phone talking to him. He was talking to me. I don’t even remember what he was saying. I was just excited. I was just like, ‘Yeah.’” Embiid said with a smile.

What will KU’s fans say about the man who leaves after averaging 11.2 points and 8.1 boards and setting the all-time freshman shot-block record in his only season?

“I just want to be remembered as a guy who gave everything when he was playing. Also, I just wanted to win,” he said.


Eliott Reeder 6 years, 3 months ago

Self said it best: If KU could give Embiid $5 mill a year to stay, he would. It is so silly and selfish for any fan to be disappointed by his decision. He's looking at about $11 million dollars guaranteed. It would be ridiculous for him to stay and risk that. Good luck in the NBA Jo Jo, I hope you have a long and wildly successful career. Make us proud!!!

Keith Gellar 6 years, 3 months ago

Self is sounding more and more like Calipari

Hank Cross 6 years, 3 months ago

Safe decision, smart decision, right decision. If you win the Lottery on Saturday night, you go to the lottery office first thing on Monday morning and cash in your ticket. Why risk tearing an ACL in Ames playing for free, when you could be making millions and going out in LA, NYC, Chicago, Miami, etc?

Reggie Flenory 6 years, 3 months ago

We will always love you homie please destroy it at the next level like we all know you gonna do get that money now on 2 the next order of business mr miles turner i hope we land em because losing joel and not getting turner would be the ultimate lose lose

Craig Carr 6 years, 3 months ago

Couldn't disagree more, the OAD player is not a fit for KU to succeed. History proves this point

Craig Carr 6 years, 3 months ago

Read the comments from Joel and Coach Self, clearly a disconnect between the two. Wish Joel all the best as he will need it. Far too many people in his ear however and money makes it the right decision to leave. Nobody should turn that amount of money down, that being said Turner is not needed. Traylor, Lucas and Mickelson will wear the KU jersey for multiple years and deserve an opportunity.

Rob Bedford III 6 years, 3 months ago

You are crazy if you think Turner is not needed. Traylor, Lucas and Mickelson are not going to cut it. Traylor is not tall enough, Lucas is slow and lacks offense and Mickelson is an unknown. Turner is a 7 footer who can defend, and make outside shots.

Keith Gellar 6 years, 3 months ago

seriously, the only other true form of income for him was going to be nigerian phishing scams. he made the wise choice.

Mike Barnhart 6 years, 3 months ago

Supposedly Rupp arena was not sold out this season for the first time in many years. Many formerly rabid Kentucky fans said there was no real connection to their beloved team anymore.

I'm kinda starting to feel the same way. This OAD crap is bad for our favorite sport. If given the choice to sign top ten OAD's or second ten developmental players, I might choose the "Izzo" way. Gimme some 3 year guys!

Tony Bandle 6 years, 3 months ago

Mike, my friend...if you have season tickets in Allen, myself and about 5,000 other folks would be more than glad to take them off your hands if you are feeling "disconnected". :)

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 3 months ago

I completely agree, but until the NBA makes the change, which I believe the CBA can't make any changes until 2017 we are stuck with this rule. I will support our team as much as I can either way and hope the rule changes to 2 years.

Benz Junque 6 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Mel Clare 6 years, 3 months ago

Here is the deal.........I understand his going. I am not selfish enough to want to rag on JoJo, he played well with limited experience while he was here. I feel another year in college would do him a lot of good. After saying that though, Greg Ostertag.....remember him? 7 feet, slow as molasses, could not really jump.....stayed in the league for what, 12 years? And made over 40 MILLION dollars just by being 7 feet and blocking a few shots?

JoJo will be a star in the league in 2 years! He will make alot more than his original contract that is for sure. I can just see it happen, The only time I even watch the NBA is if I see a KU player playing..............

Jonathan Unruh 6 years, 3 months ago

Look at Patrick Ewing. I'm sure he never regretted staying at GT 4 years.Limited basketball experience just like JoJo.

Robert Brown 6 years, 3 months ago

It is time for everyone to move on. I don't blame Embiid for taking the safe road and the money. He wasn't going to get any more money next year. I agree with those who say that Wiggins and Embiid did not stay long enough for the fans to connect. However, Embiid's presence is probably the reason KU won the conference again this year. Both Eiggins and Embiid seem like great kids but I doubt that they have developed much of an emotional connection to KU. That is not to say they did not like it in Lawrence, neither are probably even going to classes this semester.

Finally, if having two freshman lottery picks results in ten loss seasons and an early exit from tournament, I'm not sure I like it. Next year should be much better.

Terry N Tom Denner 6 years, 3 months ago

His lack of toughness is the reason the Hawks lost the games they should have won. The NBA will "along with Wiggins" get chewed them up and spit-em out. To much of a ball hog and watch me Wiggins. JoJo's having back problems and not enough toughness to hold up under the basket playing a physical game next to the Big Boy's of the NBA.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 3 months ago

100% correct move....if he wasn't injured, he would have experienced the NCAA and felt he had at least a full taste of college. With the injury, he experienced the angst of a possible lost opportunity and he felt he better act.

This decision was truly inevitable.

PS Thank you LJW for your daily summary of Hawks in the really helps me track our Jayhawk Pros.

Joe Baker 6 years, 3 months ago

Don't blame him one bit. Have fun JoJo and go get em'.

Craig Hagelgantz 6 years, 3 months ago

If you have a winning lottery ticket, do you wait a few days to claim the reward? Perhaps. A few months. Possibly. A few years? No chance!

Good luck, JoJo! It'll be fun to watch you for years to come!

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 3 months ago


What happened to the comments format yesterday and today? The replies are no longer showing up, and the comments now appear from most recent to first.

Is this a permanent change? Is anyone else other than myself and Aaron Paisley having the same issue? I reported this yesterday as a bug report, but got no reply.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 3 months ago

I've got the same problems and can not see the secondary comments at all.

Benz Junque 6 years, 3 months ago

And Cal has three Final Four's in the last four year's so there's worse things... Self needs to step it up and recruit some better guards.

Sam Constance 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm not a big fan of referring to a decision like this as "right" or "wrong". There are too many factors at play to declare such a thing. But I think it's fair to call this the "safe" decision.

That's because it guarantees that he'll draw about $10 mil over the next 3 yrs. Nothing will change that. But let's look at this from another perspective, if only for the sake of discussion.

We all know Joel is new(ish) to the game of basketball. He's been playing a few years. Given that, it's reasonable to think that his back troubles, which are wear-and-tear related as opposed to the result of trauma, are due to his body not quite being accustomed to the grind of the constant jumping on a hardwood floor (compared to his experience with soccer and volleyball). If that's the case, then one could argue that having one more season gaining strength and stamina while playing twice per week over 3.5 months is going to be more beneficial to his physical development than getting tossed into the 6-7 month, 3-4 games/week grind in the NBA. I say this, not because I selfishly wanted him to come back (I want him to do what he feels is best for him), but because I worry about the possibility of his now-isolated back issues becoming more chronic and hindering his overall career. Possibly ruining his potential as one of the greatest centers to play the game. Heck, he might get chronic back problems and still be a very good player. Just not Olajuwon good.

That said, I understand the risk. He could come back next year and have his back flare up again even with the less rigorous schedule. And while I don't personally believe that would drop him out of the lottery given the way NBA GMs draft talent, it could, and would definitely cost him some money. There is also the potential for a completely unrelated injury occurring that ends his career, as can happen to any player.

(to be concluded...)

Sam Constance 6 years, 3 months ago


So what's the "right" answer when choosing between a surefire paycheck and a small risk to career longevity versus choosing a small risk to that first paycheck and a slightly lower risk to career longevity? I don't know. It's certainly safer to take the paycheck now and hope that he will be able to develop at the appropriate pace in his rookie season, but it's far from the only logical answer.

I'm happy for Joel and hope he becomes the dominant force he seems capable of becoming. I'm not disappointed he's leaving--really the only disappointment I have surrounding him is the question of what could have been in the tournament had he been healthy. Yes, Naadir's play down the stretch was a liability to the Jayhawks, but we just watched a frontcourt-heavy Kentucky with sketchy guard play march all the way to the finals because they were just so much better inside than everyone they faced (and one of those guards hit some improbable shots).

I think the Elite 8 with Embiid was a lock (based on how the bracket played out) and I think we could have surprised Florida with a combination of three factors: 1) revenge, 2) neutral site, and 3) the chances of us repeating the 10 worst minutes we played all year (like we did in Gainesville) being low. And we all know that Bill Self is undefeated in the first game of the Final Four...

Matthew Pyle 6 years, 3 months ago

Buh-bye-- take the money and run. Hope it works out. As for his legacy as a Jayhawk-- there isn't one. Generally I pull hard for the Jayhawks in the NBA-- the OAD is making that harder and harder. Absolutely no connection.... early tournament exits isn't helping either...

Mike Riches 6 years, 3 months ago

“I really love this place. The fans were crazy, just watching them before every game, three days before every game camping out. For me it means a lot. They showed me nothing but love.”

I hope you enjoyed it, because you will never feel that kind of "love" at the next level. College is special in that regard.

Reggie Flenory 6 years, 3 months ago

We have the most passionate fan base in all of sports hands down but some of you guys really need to get over your selfs

  1. When these kids first picked up a ball all they ever wanted to be was a nba player so regardless of what school they played at it would only be a steppin stone to get to the nba

  2. College ball isnt as much about development its more about draft stock some players ie wiggins, parker embiid draft stock is as high as its gonna be after there 1st yr some players have tohave to stay 2 or more but eltimately there draft stock determines when they declare not their passion and love for the program like self said if college could pay embiid 5 mill theres not question he be back at ku.

  3. Sports is ultimately a business and these kids wanna profit off of there talent and honestly who can blame em we live in a capitalistic society and the root of capitalism is capital ie money and a person should capitial on every chance to make as much of it as possiable.

  4. For every one complaining about the one and done kids not having a connection eith the fans or the program slap your self because i sure you cheered for everyone of these kids when they played for ku and you cant be mad at self for going after the best players in the country whether they play for one season or 4 seasons would you rather have never had wiggins and embiid at kansas at all? If so then you be complaining that we cant get top talent at ku either way i guess you would find something to complain about

Benz Junque 6 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Walter Bridges 6 years, 3 months ago

Keen insight Reggie. I'm really hoping you are not a graduate of Kansas.

Andrew Horigan 6 years, 3 months ago

Completely agree. Many KU fans think every player's dream is to play in Allen Field House, which it might be, but if that's as high as they are hoping I sure don't want them. I want kids whose main goal is to be an NBA All star, the best, and if that means 1 year or 4 I don't care.

Walter Bridges 6 years, 3 months ago

Keen insight Reggie. I really hope that you are not a Kansas graduate.

Reggie Flenory 6 years, 3 months ago

Texting and driving in l.a traffic doesnt mix

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 3 months ago

IF the LJW did not want people to post on their articles I wish they would just say so. Instead they seem to continuously add new hurdles for fans to overcome...all the Google questions, then the ID issue, now the formatting and inability to reply to comments. In summary, they want to know all about our habits (Google) then they want to know exactly who we are (Facebook), now they want to make it difficult to voice our opinions.

Chandler James 6 years, 3 months ago

And why do I have to remember my user name and password? It took me forever to think of it. Whats the point of facebook verification If I cant just log in through facebook? Other sites allow it. Leave it to the LJW to screw things up

Chandler James 6 years, 3 months ago

What the hell is with this site? Why do i need a username and account if I can just log in through facebook? It took me forever to remember my password

Brett Forreal 6 years, 3 months ago

Don't worry fellow KU fans.....Turner is on his way!

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