CHARLESTON, S.C. — Joel Embiid has tried to keep the ruse alive, that he was nothing more than a seven-foot couch potato this summer. To hear Embiid tell it, every day was easy like a lazy Sunday morning.
His biggest offseason accomplishment?
“Sleep,” he said with a laugh Thursday.
Perhaps, though, the 76ers’ franchise center wasn’t exaggerating about his desire for some R&R.
Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend share a 2-year-old son. That can tucker out even the biggest of big men. And he was put through rigorous workouts this summer by his long-time personal trainer in Beverly Hills.
Then there was a pressing personal process: A native of Cameroon who also holds French citizenship, Embiid was sworn in two weeks ago in Philadelphia as an American citizen.
“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”
The 28-year-old Embiid graduated from a Florida high school and played a season in college at Kansas before the 76ers drafted him No. 3 overall in 2014. The natural question raised is, which country could Embiid potentially represent in international basketball? Embiid defused speculation and said it was way too early to think about the Olympics or other international tournaments.
“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said.
Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker might form the Sixers’ most potent lineup since 2019 and they have a legitimate shot at contending for an NBA championship. Coach Doc Rivers, in his third season, knows the scoring load isn’t a democracy — it starts with the Big Man.
“It’s just keep getting better at being a teammate and making everybody else better,” Rivers said Thursday. “That’s the next step, dominating. Giving room for James to dominate. Giving room for Tyrese to dominate. Giving room for Tobias to have a great game. I think he’s actually doing that right now.”
Embiid also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping the 76ers reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. He averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with an orbital fracture. He had offseason surgery to repair the torn ligament in his right thumb suffered in the playoffs; he also had a procedure to repair an injury to his left index finger.
Embiid said his thumb “is still not the same.”
“You can’t control freak accidents,” Embiid said. “I need to keep on going. I’m only doing this for 20 years. I need to get it all in while I can.”