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After sitting out his first two seasons, Joel Embiid found playing in the NBA easier than anticipated

Joel Embiid almost suffered the same fate as Greg Oden. Fortunately, through patience and hard work, the Cameroonian and the Philadelphia 76ers were able to work things out.
Philadelphia 76ers rookie Joel Embiid

Rookie Joel Embiid

After sitting out his first two seasons due to various injuries, it would be understandable if Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid needed ample time to get his mind and body right. After all, injuries could take a mental toll on anyone — especially athletes who have invested so much time in their bodies. And so, in his first game back, Embiid was apprehensive. But as soon as he knocked down his first bucket, he immediately felt he belonged.

This is easy

To recall, Embiid was the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. However, he suffered a broken navicular bone in his foot which caused him to miss the '14/'15 season. During the rehab process, it was found he needed to go under the knife once again. He subsequently missed the '15/'16 season. Embiid admitted it was frustrating sitting on the bench and not being able to do anything. Things changed quickly in his first game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It wasn’t until I stepped on the basketball, NBA floor for the first time. My third year against OKC, I stepped on the floor; Steven Adams was guarding me and all that stuff. I scored a bucket, my first bucket and I was like ‘Hey, this is easy.” 

Joeal Embiid, USA Today.

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Embiid finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 25 minutes of action. Though the 76ers lost the game, Embiid felt the whole organization opening a new chapter. Gone were the days of losing in bunches. Embiid felt the culture change right before his eyes.

Transforming the culture

They were like, ‘Oh, it’s about to change,' and then the attention that I’m getting and I think I scored 22 points in like 26 minutes my first game. I’m like, I was on minutes restrictions the whole year, but I’m like, 'This is easy.' Back in the day when I used to be going crazy on Twitter and all that stuff and that’s where I felt it because I’m like, ‘Oh, like, it’s easy.’” Embiid said.

As Joel pointed out, though he was cleared by the medical staff to play, Philly placed him on a minutes restriction. He also wasn’t allowed to play in back-to-back games — a decision that initially frustrated the Cameroonian. He felt those two years of rehab were more than enough. That first game back boosted his confidence so much that he might have forgotten the possibility of sustaining an injury again.

This decision by Philly goes together with Embiid’s observation that he saw the culture change. Perhaps after seeing Embiid’s first game, the front office determined that he’d be the face of the franchise soon. For this to come to fruition, they had to invest in his health. And this doesn’t just involve hiring the right people but also being extra cautious.

Everything has been paying off for Embiid and Philly. Now, the Cameroonian is one of the leading candidates for MVP. The 76ers, for their part, have been perennial playoff contenders over the last few seasons. They have a good chance at winning it all this season. If so, then we can all agree that they were right when they chanted “trust the process.”

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