CHICAGO - Joel Embiid never went through the rigors of the NBA Draft Combine. After he declared he was going to the NBA after one season at the University of Kansas, he skipped the annual event in Chicago.
He's seeing what it's all about now, though. In an unprecedented move, the 76ers' big man came with Brett Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie to Chicago and is seeing how the the organization works throughout the week. Wednesday, he sat in on about seven interviews with prospective future teammates; yesterday he was at the gym watching workouts and also sat in on some more interviews.
"I think it was a great idea to have him come here," said Brown, who noted the idea was both his and Embiid's. "He gets a chance to talk to the guys who may be his future teammates. He gets to listen to the answers to the questions that we ask, whether it be about their character, work ethic, whatever it may be.
"He is the cornerstone of the program right now, and to have him here is a real treat for both him and us. We want him being involved in our decisions moving forward. We're all in this together, and Joe knows that he is a very big piece for all of us moving forward. The more we can get him involved in everything is just better for everyone. I think this is the first time anyone has done anything like this."
Dressed in sweatpants and a short-sleeved shirt, Embiid turned many heads when he made his way around the gym.
"Man, he has got a great NBA body," one league executive said after Embiid passed. "If he can stay healthy, he really could be a player in this league."
For now, Embiid's workouts continue at the practice site at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Assistant coach Sean Rooks also made the trip to Chicago, to work out Embiid out in the mornings before meetings started.
"It really says something about Joe that he wanted to come and make this trip with us," Brown said. "It just shows how much he cares. He wants to be on the court. He wants to be a part of this growing process in any way that he can. I'm so excited for him and happy that he is so excited for what's ahead."
Brown has often said that the draft lottery is his most nerve-wracking day of the season. Last year, he was on a plane to California and watched anxiously on his computer when the team got the No. 3 pick. Tuesday, he'll be nervous again, but will occupy his time a little differently.
"I committed to doing a clinic, which starts at 6 p.m.," Brown said. "So I'm not sure that I'll be done in time to watch it. Actually, I don't know if I want to watch it, to tell you the truth. I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing. I really don't. It is such an anxious time, and I'm not sure what I'll do."
Former Chester star and University of Arizona product Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is expected to be taken in the middle of the first round in next month's draft. He is confident he'll make an impact, no matter where he is selected.
"If a team needs me to do something, I'm the guy that's going to do it," said Hollis-Jefferson, who averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds this season. "Whether it's loose balls, getting a stop, getting out on the fastbreak for a layup, I think I'm that dude that can come in and give the energy and the spark the team needs."
When it comes to the NBA, Hollis-Jefferson knows a player needs toughness. He figures his upbringing prepared him well for that.
"The league is about toughness. At the end of the day, who's tough, who can last, who's a man," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I would say my city helped build me and make me that, growing up in Chester. That made me grow as a man and as a person. I think that I'm physical enough and ready enough. I'm just willing to work."
Guards Terry Rozier (Louisville) and Quinn Cook (Duke) were impressive during their game yesterday . . . The player who drew the biggest media crowd for the day was national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, from Wisconsin . . . Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein and Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, probably the two highest projected draft picks who are in Chicago, were not scheduled to speak to the media and didn't participate in on-court activities. Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Mudiay are not participating in the combine . . . Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, brother of Sixers forward Jerami Grant, interviewed with the Sixers. "We talked about my brother a little bit, but we talked about how I would fit in with their team. It would be exciting [to play with his brother]. At this point in our lives, our games have really grown and the chance to play together would be really fun."