When Joel Embiid made his way into the locker room before the 76ers faced the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, he casually walked to his locker and sat on the undersize stool.
Just seconds later, Jerami Grant made his way from his locker spot to Embiid and, without saying a word, wrapped his arms around Embiid's massive shoulders and gave him a hug. It was like a kid seeing his father after a long time away. Embiid reached up and patted one of Grant's arms and the two shared a hearty laugh.
What Joel Embiid will be able to bring to the organization on the basketball court has yet to be seen as he has missed his first two seasons after undergoing surgeries to try to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. What he brings to the locker room and to the practice court is an immeasurable positiveness that is always on display whenever.
Embiid just recently returned from Qatar, where he continued his rehab at Aspetar, a renowned rehabilition facility. He will continue to work out on his own in an attempt to get healthy for next season. The workouts will still be solitary, but his return to the team lifts the spirits of everyone who is mired in a losing phase that includes 14 out of the last 15 games and 10 in a row.
"All of us, you get most enthused, most confident, when you feel good about yourself," coach Brett Brown said after practice Thursday.
The next step, obviously, is to see it on the court. The workouts before games have been a little more involved and still give off a feeling of hope and excitement to the fans who watch.
"It's very monitored," said Brown. "It's very structured. It's deliberate practice and it needs to be. Any excitement that we see coming back it can't be misinterpreted or abused where you do something longer or harder or more of than you should have. There's a diet. There is a prescribed duration of drills and time."
"He's like a brother to me," said Jahlil Okafor. "I love Jo-Jo. He just picks everybody up."
Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel sat out practice Thursday with nagging injuries.
Okafor missed his second straight game Wednesday after suffering a bruised shin against Orlando on Sunday.
Noel took a couple of hard spills Wednesday against Charlotte, one time banging his knee. That is what kept him out of practice.