Joel Embiid is clearly conflicted about the NBA resuming its season. On one hand, the 76ers’ three-time All-Star center said he is apprehensive about going to Orlando, Fla., especially with the spike in COVID-19 cases in the state.
On the other, he says he is excited to compete for a championship.
Embiid expressed those feelings Tuesday in a Zoom call with the media.
The Sixers will depart for Orlando on Thursday, train there, and play three exhibition games before opening Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. They will play eight “seeding” games before the playoffs begin.
When asked if he has any fears in going to Orlando, he replied, “Uh, yeah.”
Embiid then expanded.
“I am not a big fan of the idea but then again, you know I am going to do my job,” he said. “I am not going to let the city down.”
He says his opinion on the situation won’t change how he approaches his job.
“The fact that I don’t like the idea, and I still don’t believe in it, and I don’t think it is going to be safe enough” won’t deter him, he said, “because I know I am going to do the right things. I don’t do anything; I play video games and I am always home. I don’t do anything, but then again I don’t trust those other guys to do the same. But like I said, I got to do my job.”
He stated a few times during the call that he feels the Sixers have what it takes to win a championship.
“When I say I am not excited about the Orlando situation, I am -- but I am excited to play, to be with my teammates, the coaches, play for the city, play for the fans who I love, so it is going to be an exciting time,” he said. “We have got a great chance, I do believe it.”
Embiid has played in 44 of the Sixers’ 65 games. He missed five straight with a left shoulder sprain before returning to contribute 30 points and 14 rebounds in a 124-106 win over the visiting Detroit Pistons on March 11. It was after that game that the NBA suspended the season due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I want to keep improving and keep being that guy,” said Embiid, who is averaging 23.4 points and 11.8 rebounds. ”I was on the path before the season got shut down, I was on the path to get back to what I was doing last year, which was dominating everybody. I was on that path, and unfortunately, the season got shut down.
With Embiid, the question is whether he will be in shape. Listed at 7-foot and 280 pounds, the 26-year-old Embiid often gets exasperated when people ask him about his weight. Last week, Sixers coach Brett Brown raved about Embiid’s conditioning.
“I don’t think my weight is an issue,” he said. “I am fine.”
The Sixers (39-26) are currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Given their high expectations in the preseason, it has been a disappointing regular season. Embiid said he feels that the Sixers are built for the playoffs and forecasts that the best is yet to come.