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News of Joel Embiid's slow recovery leaves Sixers with questions

Embiid’s CT scan shows the center’s not as close to healing as pain-free practices suggested.

The Sixers' Joel Embiid. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Sixers' Joel Embiid. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more(Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

Fans of the 76ers are as divided as the Hatfields and the McCoys. If you're on board with general manager Sam Hinkie's plan, then Saturday night's news that the navicular bone in Joel Embiid's foot is not healing as quickly as hoped is a blip on the screen.

If you're not on board, then thoughts of Andrew Bynum no doubt started haunting you as the team released a statement stating, in part: "Joel and Sixers personnel traveled to Los Angeles for a series of routine exams. During his visit . . . a standard CT scan on Joel's right foot revealed less healing than anticipated at this point."

Like so many things surrounding this organization, it is right now a mystery what this latest CT scan means for the future of Embiid and the Sixers. Does the future of this team rely on the tiny navicular bone in Embiid's foot? It very well could.

Since the season ended, the 7-foot, 250-pounder has been at the team's practice facility working out almost daily. He hasn't played five-on-five, simply because teammates scattered after the season and not enough are in town. Even so, a source said that Embiid has been working out very hard and playing "meaningful" half-court games. The source said that Embiid was a "full go" and has looked "shockingly good" in workouts.

Which is why this latest setback is of serious concern to the front office. According to the source, Embiid had been playing pain-free since the end of the season. He went to Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago to continue working out and to see doctors for a pre-planned checkup on his foot. The CT scan a few days ago showed "something different" in the healing of the bone that sustained the stress fracture almost exactly a year ago. The Sixers, no doubt, will try to find out just what course of action to take: surgery, a short stint of inactivity or a layoff that could include Embiid missing the two summer leagues next month.

Another source, contacted yesterday, said that Embiid is now wearing a protective boot.

It is a nerve-wracking time for the Sixers. If this is the beginning of an injury-riddled career for Embiid, then the onus of the pick falls on Hinkie. Embiid suffered a stress fracture to a bone in his right foot while working out before the draft last year. He also missed the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments in his lone season at Kansas due to a stress fracture in his back.

Considered the No. 1 pick before his foot injury, Embiid fell to third after Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. While the Sixers tried to move up to draft Wiggins, they didn't pull it off. So even though they immediately said they were lucky to get Embiid, many speculated that taking a big man with foot problems was too risky. Perhaps that is proving true. But, as with Bynum, the move seemed too good to pass up.

If this latest setback is something minor and Embiid's inactivity is more for precaution than anything else, then "The Process" will stay its course, with Embiid the centerpiece of it all. Coach Brett Brown has said many times that Embiid is the part they must build around.

Though there was a blip during the season with his conditioning, which forced the team to essentially kick him off of a road trip, Embiid seems to have found his way. If you think about it, it's not really surprising that a 20-year-old got a little lazy at one point. First, he was only 20. Second, he has been away from his family, who are all the way back in Cameroon, since he left for Kansas. Add to that the loss of his younger brother in a tragic accident during this past season, and a temporary setback shouldn't be surprising.

Since the road trip incident, however, it appears Embiid has done all that the team has asked and has formed his body into one that looks ready to endure the rigors of the NBA. Among those I've talked to who have watched him work out, almost all are awed by his nimble feet, shooting form, athleticism and quickness. If those assets can translate to the NBA game, then the pick will be warranted.

There are those who won't bail on Sam Hinkie's vision. Probably more will choose that route rather than believing all of these moves were just time wasted.

I choose to be somewhere in between, adopting a sort of wait-and-see attitude. As with many moves Hinkie has made during his tenure, this latest setback with Embiid could push the wait back even more. Trades and future draft picks may influence the Sixers' progress. But that little bone at the top of Embiid's foot may impact "The Process" most.