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Sixers coach 'thrilled' with Joel Embiid's progress

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Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Joel Embiid will play in the NBA next season. No, seriously. It must be true. His coach said so.

That would be a first for the former Kansas center from Cameroon. But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, in an interview on Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia, went as far as to say he thinks Embiid, who missed each of the previous two years due to foot injuries — or one injury with a complication, depending on how you look at it — will play in the Sixers’ 2016-17 season opener.

“That is my strong belief,” Brown said in his radio appearance, during which, according to the coach, Embiid was at the franchise’s facility for weight lifting and a basketball workout.

Perhaps next season Embiid will become less of a mystery man. In the meantime, Brown said Philadelphia’s medical staff wants the 7-footer, as well as the coaches working with him, taking everything slowly.

“I think that he’s coming along tremendously,” Brown said of Embiid, who averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds during his one-and-done season at KU. “I feel like from a maturity standpoint and the reality of the professionalism that is required for him to be money and just perfect with the rehab, ‘pre-hab,’ nutrition, all of that, is ever-present in Joel Embiid.”

New Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, appearing on Comcast’s Breakfast on Broad, also provided some insight on Embiid’s progress. Colangelo said the 22-year-old big man eventually will be cleared for five-on-five basketball activity.

“At what point, I’m not sure yet, but he looks terrific in his drill work,” Colangelo said. “He’s coming along. That’s not to get over-hyped about it. It’s just to say he’s progressing well, and that’s encouraging for all of us.”

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Brown remains optimistic about Embiid’s potential impact with the franchise, and said all signs point to him producing a “solid” rookie season.

“There could me minute restrictions on his first year, where we start off the season slowly with him,” the Sixers coach said. “But, in general, I know he’s just so excited to get out there and play basketball again.”

In a different interview, for the Sixers 365 podcast, Philadelphia’s third-year coach said he put Embiid through a workout just a few days ago, and left pleased after seeing some of the center’s agility.

“I think his spirit’s fantastic,” Brown added. “If people truly understood the work that he has put in to arrive to this place now — and we’ve still got a long ways to go — but he is moving comfortably and confidently in the direction that we all hope he will move to. Everything is looking great right now.”

Added the 76ers coach: “I’m thrilled for him. He deserves it. He put in the time.”


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