So now what exactly does the future hold for 76ers center Joel Embiid? A source told the Daily News that Embiid would need a second surgery on his right foot and that he most likely will miss the entire 2015-16 season. The Sixers took Embiid with the third overall pick in 2014, just a couple of weeks after it was discovered that he fractured the navicular bone in his right foot. He sat out all of this past season due to the injury.
The source said that surgery will most likely be performed in either North Carolina or New York. The source also said "I'm not sure if the bone is fractured again, but it would sure seem like it."
The 7-foot, 270-pound Embiid had a trying year with the team, even though he never put on a uniform. In October, during the team's preseason, the younger brother of Embiid, 13-year-old Arthur, was killed in a car accident in Cameroon. Joel Embiid returned home to be with his family for a couple of weeks before returning to the Sixers.
He then got out of favor with the club during a west coast trip due to his lack of conditioning work in late December and was sent back east. At the time, coach Brett Brown said: "There are always stages of assessment and doctors have checkpoints. So far we are ticking boxes. Now we are at a stage where we feel moving him around the country might not be the smartest thing to do.
"Imagine if you are a big man like Joel Embiid. We are trying to manage his diet and weight, but he is a prisoner because he can't do much to increase heart rate. We can achieve that better in Philadelphia."
The lapse in conditioning by the then 20-year-old wasn't all that surprising, given all he had already gone through. He quickly corrected his workout style and soon looked to be at his normal playing weight while amping up his workouts throughout the season. Then in March, Embiid was placed in a boot after a planned examination with his surgeon. At the time, Brown called it a "minor setback" but also said: "It's healing at the rate that we expected. Everything is right on track."
When the season ended in mid-April and most players went their separate ways for some time off, Embiid stayed in the Philadelphia area to continue his rehab. According to a source, he was playing two-on-two and three-on-three games while also participating in full court drills. "The only reason he wasn't playing five-on-five was because there wasn't enough people in the gym to do that. He is, basically, a full go."
Then on June 13, the team released a statement saying that a CT scan "revealed less healing that anticipated". The mystifying element it all this was that Embiid had been working out and, according the president and general manager Sam Hinkie, had felt no pain.
The Daily News sat down with Hinkie in Utah on Thursday before the team played their final Summer League game there. The first questions were all about Embiid and where he may be.
Hinkie said: "There are meetings with various doctors who have various opinions. There are meetings with our staff about what is best for him. It's still ongoing. I think we're close (to announcing a decision). My guess is maybe sometime next week. I don't think it will be too much longer. There hasn't been more news since the initial press release. We're just circling around a lot of the experts in this field to get their opinions. That's an important phrase - their opinions - on what course of action is best. They don't all agree sometimes. So that process takes a while.
"We've asked a ton of questions, from about his still growing to everything. Any professional athlete, much less someone as good and as big as him, there's lots of question about 'Is this case down the middle normal, like ones you've seen or how exceptional is this case'?"
The team has not made an announcement as of yet. A call to Hinkie has not yet been returned.
So where does the future go from here? Perhaps Embiid's injury is unique. Maybe he is still growing and the bone is taking longer to fuse. Perhaps this second surgery will cure all and another year of rehab will be what he needs to get his career started next season. Or perhaps this is an injury that keeps hindering him for a long time.
Of course, there is relief in that the team selected Jahlil Okafor with the third pick in last month's draft. Many raised a red flag when the Duke product was selected, saying the choice proved that Embiid wasn't going to be ready to play. Others couldn't wait to see a front line rotation of Embiid, Okafor and Nerlens Noel.
As with most everything in this whole process, Embiid's is a wait-and-see situation. Who knows how this will all play out? It has to be disheartening that it appears the team will have to go another season without the player Brown has deemed the cornerstone of this rebuild.
Whether this is a setback or a partial demolition to the plan won't be known, probably for another year or so. In the meantime, the development of Okafor and Noel, the search for a point guard and the progression of the younger talent remains the priority. It will all just have to happen without the thought of Embiid manning the middle for now.
For the optimists, there are a possible four first round picks waiting next year, and perhaps without Embiid a pretty dismal season that will give the Sixers another high pick. For the pessimists, it seems like another stroke of bad luck for the organization and a prolonged look into what the future may hold.
And what of Brown? He stated at the end of last season that winning would start this year. His main piece to do that appears to have just been snatched away. Can this man survive another season of crushing losses? We just may find out.