They were ready to strike. Brett Brown said he was star hunting. The Sixers struck out on landing LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. Joel Embiid didn't care.
"When my season ended, there was a lot of talk about adding guys. I literally did not really care because I want to get better," Embiid said during a conference call Wednesday from Johannesburg, South Africa. "I want to be better than those guys that were mentioned, if I'm not already better than them."
Embiid's goals have not changed from the end of the season to now. As if he didn't already have enough confidence the Sixers' 52-win season gave him everything else he needed.
The goals for the Sixers' franchise player are clear, though not easily reached: Become a better player, make it to the NBA Finals, win the MVP, and help spread the game of basketball.
As a part of Basketball without Borders, Embiid is aiming to make the NBA more globally attainable and will play in the NBA Africa Game to help spread the game.
He's been spending his first healthy offseason working on his game, specifically his long-range shooting and his ball-handling, hoping they will make him a better player.
That's two goals that are closer to being reached. Next up, become an MVP and compete for a championship.
"I want to win the MVP. I feel like at the end of the day it might be an individual award, but when I play better, the team also does," Embiid said. "I feel like if I'm an MVP candidate or if I win the MVP, that means we are on another level."
That next level isn't that far away according to Embiid.
"We won 52 games, which nobody thought would happen, we won 16 games in a row, we thought that we had a chance to go to the Finals," Embiid said of last season. "The approach doesn't change. Still the same. We're just going to do our thing."
But before the Sixers can do their thing, Embiid will continue doing his. First up the NBA Africa Game on Saturday, when Embiid and Team Africa will face off against Team World.
The game, played in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, is the NBA's third showing in Africa and will follow the 16th edition of Basketball Without Borders Africa, a program Embiid, a native of Cameroon, took part in back in 2011.
"That's something I want to do every year, just come back and give back," he said. "When I was in that situation, I felt great being among NBA players. I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to touch them because I was so amazed by them."