Joel Embiid just got paid.
The 76ers center and the team have agreed in principle on a five-year, $148 million extension, the maximum based on the designated rookie scale. He could earn $178 million if he meets the super-max criteria, which include making an all-NBA team or being named league MVP.
The deal, however, is heavily salary-cap protected should Embiid miss significant playing time because of injuries.
Even if only of 50 percent of his contract is guaranteed, the big man will still walk away with $74 million. Not bad for a guy who has played in only 31 games because of injuries since being selected third overall in the 2014 NBA draft.
Embiid tweeted at 12:06 a.m. Tuesday “The Process to be continued ……. I LOVE YOU PHILADELPHIA #5MoreYears.”
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) October 10, 2017
He wasn’t available for comment on Monday.
After spending time at the team’s practice facility, the 23-year-old flew to Boston on Monday to rejoin his teammates. He wasn’t at TD Garden before the start of the Sixers preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Embiid is scheduled to practice with them on Tuesday.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) October 9, 2017
Sixers coach Brett Brown has declined comment on his franchise player’s new deal until it becomes official.
“I don’t want to comment on his contract or his injuries,” he said.” What I do want to I want to comment on is the skill that we see now. I see what he does on the court. I’m reminded of … what he can do and how good he can be.”
However, that didn’t stop Embiid’s teammates from speaking freely about his deal before Monday’s matchup.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) October 9, 2017
“I don’t know what to say about that,” Sixers point guard Ben Simmons of Embiid’s contract. “What is it, $150 [million] something? Five years? You are set. …
“I hope he does [get $178 million], because that would means that he’s killing. I can’t wait for him to start playing with us.”
Simmons was asked by a reporter why Embiid deserves all that money.
The first overall draft pick in 2016 chuckled before responding, “Have you seen him play? He’s a beast.
“I can’t name one person that can stop him. Honestly, there’s nobody that can compete with him at his position. No one.”
We all know Embiid’s injury history. He’s still hasn’t played in a game after having what the Sixers called “minor” surgery more than six months ago to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
The goal was for him to return for the season-opening matchup against the Wizards in Washington on Oct. 18. However, Embiid has been ahead of schedule in rehabilitation.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Sixers played Embiid in Friday’s preseason finale against the Miami Heat in Kansas City, Mo. That game would serve as a homecoming of sorts for the former Kansas standout.
Embiid played in only 31 games last season before the team announced on March 1 that he would need season-ending knee surgery. His last game was Jan. 27.
He missed the previous two seasons because of two surgeries to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. He also had a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments during his lone season at Kansas in 2014.
But no other Sixer possesses the 7-foot-2 Embiid’s total package of size, toughness, shot-blocking ability, strength, athleticism, quickness and competitiveness.
He’s the most important part of turning “The Process” into what the Sixers hope is a championship team. Without Embiid, the Sixers will have to rethink everything about the plan they’ve been working on for the last few years.
“What he showed me last season in 31 games, he’s a guy that deserves that money,” Dario Saric said. “No question about it. I hope he can stay healthy.
“I hope that he can show everybody that he’s that guy that will bring us to another level. For sure, he deserves that money. And he will show that on the court.”
The center was playing at an all-star level when he was healthy. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 2.1 assists last season. He was the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October/November, December, and January. He was also the conference player of the week for the week of Jan. 16-22.
Reserve guard Jerryd Bayless said Embiid’s combination of size and superior athleticism can’t be taught. He also marveled that Embiid was introduced to basketball less than eight years ago in his native Cameroon.
Those are some of the reasons that Bayless said he deserves the money.
“We just need him to get healthy so he can prolong that,” Bayless said. “He’s going to great not only for us but for the whole city and state of Pennsylvania.”
Several of the Sixers commented on the contract extension. But Robert Covington, who’s due for a new deal on Nov. 16, had perhaps the best reaction to learning that Embiid got $148 million.
“Hey, get that bag,” Covington said of his initial thought. “Get that bag, you know. He deserved it. Definitely a healthy player, he’s one of the best players in this league.”
But Jahlil Okafor was far from surprised. He said Embiid is an even better person than player.
“I’m just happy that it’s finally” agreed upon, Okafor said.