Sixers' Joel Embiid targets season opener, talks contract

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Sixers’ Joel Embiid strikes a pose at media day.

Joel Embiid used Monday’s media day to clarify a few things.

After the 76ers said there’s no timetable for his return from a left knee injury, Embiid revealed the hope is to play Oct. 18 in the 76ers’ season opener at the Washington Wizards. The center also shot down a WIP Radio report that he wants a new contract before playing five-on-five. Embiid followed that up by pointing out that, as a fourth-year player, he doesn’t have any leverage in regard to negotiating a contract extension.

“I’m going to be a restricted free agent [after this season],” Embiid said, if he doesn’t get the extension by the Oct. 16 deadline.

“So they can do whatever they want,” he added. “There’s been discussions about [a contract extension], and hopefully something works out.”

He’s going to be elated if the Sixers give him the extension that could be four years exceeding $100 million.

Right now, the goal is to be ready to play in the season opener.

Embiid might play in a couple of preseason games. However, the team won’t put him on the court less than 100 percent.

He’s not the only Sixer with restrictions heading into training camp, which starts Tuesday at the team’s practice facility in Camden. Guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is dealing with knee tendinitis; he played through right knee soreness last season. Jahlil Okafor is also experiencing right knee soreness.

But Embiid’s injury is the headliner.

In addition to rehabbing, the Sixers want him in the best possible shape before participating in a game. Embiid said he’s not on that level yet.

“But hopefully, I can [play] in the first game of the season,” he said.

He has not participated in five-on-five scrimmages since having what the Sixers called “minor” surgery more than six months ago to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Embiid, however, said he feels great. The 23-year-old said he has worked hard on his body during the past couple of months.

“I feel good about myself and can’t wait to be back on the court,” he said. “And as far as everything, I feel amazing.”

Embiid experienced swelling in his knee right after the surgery. However, that was expected. He said he hasn’t experienced any since. Embiid added that he has had the knee scanned two or three times since the surgery.

“Everything looks perfect,” he said. “So we just have to keep managing it.”

But he thinks he could play five-on-five if need be. “I mean if it was Game 7 of the Finals, definitely,” Embiid said. “But there’s a plan in place and I have to check a couple of boxes before this season or before my first game of this season. That’s what I intend to do.”

Embiid, however, said he doesn’t think he’ll play in all 82 games this season. He does hope that his minute restrictions go away.

He also debunked the report that he was forgoing five-on-five work until he got an extension. “So like someone [reports] that I’m going to be not [scrimmaging] because of a contract negotiation,” he said, “I mean, at the end of the day, I don’t have any leverage.”

In his absence, Richaun Holmes might get a lot of action with the first team. That’s because Okafor hasn’t participated in five-on-five scrimmages all summer. He was just cleared for three-on-three scrimmages last Tuesday. Okafor hopes to go full-bore sometime in training camp.

The limitation comes after Okafor saw both of his first two NBA seasons cut short by injuries to his right knee. He missed 18 games last season because of the knee. He also missed two games to rest, another because of hamstring tightness, and three with gastroenteritis.

Okafor’s knee has been bothering him since he had surgery in March 2016 to repair a torn meniscus. The injury could make it hard for the Sixers to get what they deem as equal value for the 6-foot-11 center, the third overall pick of the 2015 draft.

Luwawu-Cabarrot experienced the tendinitis while training with the French national team this summer. He plans to do some running during training camp.