Saturday, June 11, 2016


Tom Keegan: Embiid deserves a bit of luck

Kansas center Joel Embiid battles for position with Iowa State defenders Georges Niang, left, and DeAndre Kane during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid battles for position with Iowa State defenders Georges Niang, left, and DeAndre Kane during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Some images live somewhere in the brain and every so often surface to the conscious level. They never will disappear until that brain shuts down completely.

One of mine: Joel Embiid, 7-foot-2 native of Cameroon, stood up from his seat on the Kansas bench well before the gates opened for that night’s game and made not one, not two, three consecutive shots, and sat back down. He didn’t make a fuss, which suggested to me that this was not a difficult shot for him.

It’s also not a shot that he ever would take in a game because he wasn’t even in bounds. Still, it showed what a soft shooting touch he has, just one of many illustrations of how he was born to play basketball, a sport his body hasn’t yet let him play professionally.

Embiid, who missed the final month of his lone season at Kansas University because of a stress fracture of the back, has had two surgeries on the navicular bone of his right foot since being taken with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 draft. He hopes to make his NBA debut during the 2016-17 season. defines the navicular as “a boat-shaped bone located in the top inner side of the foot, just above the transverse. It helps connect the talus, or anklebone, to the cuneiform bones of the foot."

Embiid underwent a bone-graft procedure last August.

Yao Ming missed an entire season with a similar injury and was able to play just five games when he returned before deciding to retire.

On the other hand, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was limited by injuring the bone twice in 29 games in what would have been his first four seasons. He made a complete comeback and enjoyed a long career after that shaky start.

And then there was Bill Walton, who played just 14 games in a four-season stretch in the middle of his career. Upon his return, he played with minutes restrictions.

I have but one strong NBA rooting interest and that’s for a return to health for Embiid for two reasons: 1. I love watching him play basketball and the NBA could use another great, young center so that Anthony Davis isn’t the only one. 2. Embiid could use a break to go his way. He came to the United States because it was the best launching pad to an NBA career. One of the sacrifices he made in doing so was not seeing his younger brother, Arthur, for the last four years of his life. Arthur died in Cameroon, reportedly after a vehicle rolled down a hill and struck him.

If Embiid ever returns to full health, he has all the tools to develop into a perennial All-Star.


Levi Chronister 5 years, 7 months ago

"so that Anthony Davis isn’t the only one"

Karl Anthony Townes would like a word with you, Tom.

Dale Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

Another reason I root for Embiid is that he is a nice guy. All class.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

Very good article, Tom. Joel was such a great part of the KU program even though he only played a little over half the season. His spirit, attitude, and infectious smile were a pleasure to watch, and his progress from being a "project" to being a top pick in the NBA draft was probably the most amazing experience of any player that Bill Self has coached. Like you say, Dale, he is all class.

If Joel can get fully healthy, I will begin watching the NBA a lot more just to see him play.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

By the way, Tom, tell me a little about your golf game. I have been trading a few e-mails with Suzi Marshall about golf, and she says you are pretty darn good. I doubt that I am in your league, but I did play freshman golf at KU back in the late 1960's. Of course, there were no scholarships at that time, and the program wasn't anything like it is today.

By my sophomore year, I knew that I wasn't good enough to make the regular squad, so I decided to focus on studies and came away with a degree in Business Administration and Mathematics in 1970. Still play a little, though not as passionate about the game any more. However, my father, who was the Kansas Amateur Champion in 1955 and the Kansas Senior Champ in the 1970's, remained passionate about it until his early 80's when his health began to decline rapidly.

I still think that it is the greatest individual sport of all, and hope that the younger generations will keep up the traditions. Unfortunately, the future of the sport for the average golfer or beginner doesn't look that promising right now, in my opinion.

Armen Kurdian 5 years, 7 months ago

You could see on his face the disappointment that he would not be able to play in another game when KU lost in the tourney. he really should have stayed one more year...recovery in the NCAA would have been easier than NBA. But I wish him the best of luck.

Brian Aubry 5 years, 7 months ago

"recovery in the NCAA would have been easier than NBA"

I don't agree with this. NBA has access to higher quality doctors, trainers, and medical personnel than the NCAA does. Plus, he is getting paid to recover. His draft stock would have surely taken a hit had he stayed another year, likely just to sit on the bench.

He signed for 120% of the rookie scale for his draft year and position, and is looking to earn $13.8 million over his first 3 years (not counting the exercised club option for the 4th year worth $6.1 million).

Now, lets say he stays another year, doesn't play due to the injury (which is extremely likely considering he is still recovering to this day), and somehow manages to still be drafted by a lottery team. Assuming he goes anywhere from 7th to 14th (which I would see as unlikely after sitting an entire season), he's looking at a 3 year contract worth $9.3 million at pick 7 to $6.1 million at pick 14.

He'd have thrown away $4.5 to $7.7 million to return to school, again assuming he goes late lottery the following year.

I know which decision I'd make.

Doug Cramer 5 years, 7 months ago

When you make poor decisions, sometimes luck is hard to come by. Embiid made a poor decision by leaving KU way too early.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 7 months ago

That's utterly ridiculous, Doug. See Brian's comments above.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

Doug, I totally disagree. He did not make a poor decision as the results tell all of the story. Had he stayed at KU for one more year, he likely wouldn't have played either, especially given how the injury is described in this article. Then, where would he have been?

His injury appears to be more severe than what we might at first been led to believe. Actually, more than the specific injury, his bone structure has been a significant factor apparently.

Decisions are decisions, and "luck" isn't what it is cracked up to be, unless you find it at the casino. One of my favorite adages is, "The harder you work, the luckier you get."

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