NEW YORK - Joel Embiid represented the 76ers on the draft lottery stage Tuesday and he said afterward that he hoped this will be the final time that happens.
Embiid and the Sixers' president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, were optimistic about the center's recovery from surgery March 24 to repair the meniscus tear in his left knee.
Although the Sixers earned the third pick in the NBA draft in the lottery, no development is bigger than getting Embiid back on the court. He anticipates returning soon.
"I have been shooting; I haven't been jumping or anything," Embiid said after the lottery. "I have an MRI scheduled in three weeks, and if everything looks good I will be back on the court."
Once on the court he will accelerate his rehab. For now he has been doing some shooting while also lifting weights and running in water.
When he returns to the court, Embiid said, "I am going to start jumping, and I don't think they are worried about the meniscus. They are more worried about the bone bruise to see if it is completely healed."
Both Embiid and Colangelo said they were encouraged after his surgery.
"The surgery was a lot less serious than we anticipated and things are moving along great with both him and Ben Simmons," Colangelo said.
Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, missed the entire season after surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot. Embiid was limited to 31 games and last played Jan. 27, when he scored 32 points in just over 28 minutes during a 123-118 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Embiid was on the lottery stage next to Magic Johnson, the Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations. The Lakers would have owed the Sixers their draft pick if it fell out of the top three. But the Lakers kept the pick and will select second, right after the Boston Celtics.
Johnson playfully credited Embiid with the Lakers' good fortune.
"He told me, 'Oh, man, don't worry about it, you are going to keep it,' " Johnson said. ". . . I said, 'OK, man, you are the good luck charm. I am carrying you with me everywhere.' "
Embiid had a breakout season with the Sixers, even in a limited role. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.45 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per game.
As for his plans this summer, Embiid said he would play five-on-five basketball but didn't give a time line. He said he would not play in any summer leagues.
Most of all, he's eager to move forward after all he experienced in his abbreviated first season.
"The city, the fans are crazy and showed a lot of love with us this year," he said. "It was exciting, and we've got a good group."
Embiid insisted that his time on the sideline will be a thing of the past.
"I only played 31 games, but my main thing is to stay healthy and I intend to stay healthy for the rest of my career and we have to work on some stuff," he said. "I think the potential the team has and the future with the cap space is a good sign."