KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Joel Embiid has had a few injuries since arriving at the NBA bubble.
The 76ers center has dealt with discomfort in his right half, a sprained left ankle, and a right hand injury. But Sixers coach Brett Brown said the three-time All-Star is mentality and physically in a good place.
“There is zero doubt, mentally, he’s as good as he’s been. He’s in a great place,” Brown said before Game 1 of the opening-round series against the Boston Celtics. “He understands, especially without Ben [Simmons], the responsibility, the opportunity that he has.
“I think his mind is in a great place.”
The Sixers are without Simmons, who had left knee surgery Aug. 10. He will be reevaluated in another week. Philly is approaching the playoffs as if it will be without the two-time All-Star.
Brown was expected to play Embiid more than he normally plays in a regular-season game.
Brown said he sees a difference in how the franchise player moves around at practice, in the questions he asks, and in his interactions with teammates.
“I see an older, more mature leader,” Brown said, “Um, you know, when you play the Boston Celtics, and we all get from a historical perspective that rivalry, it’s amplified.”
It was a best-case scenario for the Sixers.
The organization will select 21st overall in the NBA draft on Oct. 16 because the Oklahoma City Thunder won a three-team tiebreaker Monday with the Houston Rockets (No. 22) and Utah Jazz. (No. 23).
The Sixers acquired the Thunder pick from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Markelle Fultz in a 2019 trade. The pick had been top-20-protected. That same day, the Sixers sent a package that included their 2020 first-rounder to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Boban Marjanovic.
“Our focus right now is, obviously, on the Boston Celtics, but our scouting team and I have been intently focused on the draft all season long,” Sixers general Elton Brand before Monday’s game.
“We’re fortunate to have multiple quality picks, including a first-rounder, " he added. “So we’re excited by the options we’ll have to add more depth and young talent in October.”
The Thunder pick would have turned into two second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 if the pick didn’t convey this summer. But Oklahoma City’s 116-115 victory over the Miami Heat last Wednesday ensured that pick would be no higher than 21st in the draft.
The Sixers also have four second-round draft picks (34th, 36th, 49th, and 58th).