He didn’t come out and say it in Monday's conference call with media members, but the writing is on the wall: Joel Embiid likely won’t play for the Sixers this season.
Just as general manager Sam Hinkie had no issue with selecting a big guy with injury issues for the second consecutive year, he will similarly have no issue with sitting said big man for the entirety of the season if he feels as though it is the best course of action.
With the Sixers still stationed in rebuilding mode and not really contemplating contention for the upcoming season, it is probably the best course of action, again.
It was originally reported that Embiid would need 4-6 months of recovery time from foot surgery, but Hinkie quickly pushed back the timetable.
“I’ve seen reported some 4-6 months,” he began in his first post-draft day press conference, “but that’s not the number I heard. The number I heard from the surgeon himself was 5-8 months.”
An eight-month recovery would see Embiid returning to on-court action around February, around the same time that Nerlens Noel was originally expected to return last season. Similar to last season however, by February, the Sixers will likely find themselves far out of contention, and Hinkie will be mulling the merit of pulling out his prized pick for the tail-end of a lost season.
Noel was ready to play late last season, even tweeting out a potential debut date, but the Sixers kept him stationed on the sideline for the duration, and the approach won’t be any different with Embiid.
“We will focus on the long-term health of the player, that’s all that matters,” Hinkie continued, peering down from the podium at the hovering mass of media members. “Will we be smart about that? Of course. Will we be patient? Yes.”
If these quotes sound familiar, it is probably because Hinkie emphasized the same message last summer when addressing Noel.
Patience is key for Hinkie and his reconstruction of the Sixers. Moves aren’t made for instant gratification, and everything is done deliberately. While Hinkie’s timetable for Embiid’s return to action is likely the only one we will be exposed to for a while, it is also the only one we need.
“Right now, I’m just thinking about my recovery,” Embiid replied when asked about the possibility of missing the season in its entirety. “I just want to get back on the court whenever I can, when I feel 110 percent. I’m just going to work out and do everything and come back whenever I can.”
Embiid is employing the right approach and he seems genuinely excited about his opportunity with the Sixers, just don’t expect to see him this season.