IF THERE'S any such thing as lucky timing with injuries, the 76ers got lucky with Joel Embiid's apparent setback.
It turns out that Embiid, the player they took with the third overall pick in June despite a stress fracture in his right foot, was scheduled to visit the doctor in Los Angeles this week to check the progress of the foot. It just so happens that Embiid admitted to the team that he was experiencing some soreness in the same foot and the team decided to put a boot on him just before he went out west.
Timing is everything.
Yesterday following practice, coach Brett Brown confirmed various reports that Embiid was wearing a protective boot before heading to California to visit with Dr. Richard Ferkel, who peformed the June 20 surgery to repair the stress fracture of the navicular bone in the 7-footer's foot.
"There was some soreness," Brown said. "It's far more of a precautionary thing. It was always scheduled, just a revisit with his doctor. He and K.J. [trainer Kevin Johnson] are in California, something that was always planned, not a reaction to this groundswell of interest, which I understand. There has been some soreness."
In warmups before Friday's game against the Utah Jazz, Embiid performed a dunk in which he put the ball through his legs while in the air and slammed it with his right hand before landing on his right foot. He immediately jogged off the court - without a limp - to the locker room. Whether the dunk had anything to do with the arrival of the boot is anyone's guess.
"I don't believe so," Brown responded when asked whether the dunk caused harm. "It's hard to say yes or no. We do admit that we have to tame him, count him down, because he just wants to be on the court. He's dying to play basketball. So sometimes we turn our heads and he'll take a shot or do that dunk. He gets it. He has been responsible with most of it. We just have to make sure we continue to put him in environments that allow him to maximize his health, because as we know it's always about his health. That's really where we're at.
"People shouldn't overreact. I get why we all can. But it's not a situation at all that people should overreact to. I think when you speak to doctors and people who do this all the time and give assessments, they say it's quite normal, it's part of the history, it's part of the recovery of the injury that you will experience some soreness from time to time. I think when you see him doing a dunk and then you see him in a boot, you connect the dots and it's fair. It is fair. Nobody is trying to be clandesdine. It's very transparent. He is in a boot, there is soreness, he is visiting his doctor in California as was always planned. Quite simply, that's where we're at."
Before this planned visit, Embiid seemed to be getting to a place where teammate Nerlens Noel was a year ago - recovering from injury after a long layoff, itching to get back on the court.
"Joel probably has a little soreness," said Noel, who sat out all of last season recovering from knee surgery. "I had a little soreness at certain stages of my rehab, too. You just rest it and when you get right you hit it harder and build your tolerance with it and you get better.
"Joel is a competitor. He's getting more and more healthy. He's wanting to do more things on the court. He's wanting to be more active. The whole process is very hard. Not playing basketball for a whole year, and you see Joel going through it, I've done my best at keeping him positive. When it starts getting toward this time, like it was for me, you do start getting a little antsy and wanting to do more. I see it in Joel."
Nerlens Noel was back at practice after sitting the previous day with a sore shin. . . . Isaiah Canaan again was out with an upper-respiratory infection and he is day-to-day.