Joel Embiid continues to shoot the ball in warmups. He’ll throw in an occasional dunk. And now he’s playing two-on-two in practice.
The 76ers’ first-round draft pick is taking baby steps toward his professional debut next season.
But the path between now and then seems to be murky.
“I think soon, like in the next week-and-a-half, two weeks, we're going to progress there,” Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters about Embiid before Wednesday’s ugly 119-90 loss to the Washington Wizards. “And even that two-on-two sounds a lot better than it is. I mean, admittedly Curtis Sumpter was a pretty good player for Villanova, but now he's my 11th assistant. He is great at banging people, and all that. But I think it's probably eight to 10 days away. You see so much more when it's up and down. When we get to that level, then we're really cooking and a hell of a lot closer than we are today to making better assessments and projecting him out as it relates to summer league.”
Don’t expect Embiid and Nerlens Noel to play together during the Summer League.
Noel suffered a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter against the Wizards and may miss the final three games.
“I am concerned,” Brown said. “On tape I see him come down on Will Bynum's foot. That is a real turned ankle, a real sprain. We jumped on the treatment, but my guess would be that he would be unlikely to play in Chicago (Saturday night).”
How about in the summer?
“I don't think I want to play him (Noel) in the summer league,” Brown said. "I don't feel like the need to do that. I think that he'll come and practice with the team. I think there's a lot of logic that you could spin it and say, 'Well, shoot, you're missing opportunities for (Embiid) and Nerlens to play together.' I think it sounds more glamorous than it would need to be. I don't believe that's a must. I see Nerlens coming in and practicing with that team and investing a hell of a lot of time this summer with Joel, but perhaps not in that environment.”
As the struggling Sixers (18-61) prepare to close out another tough season, it’s natural to look forward.
The transformation will continue with the lottery and then will move forward into the summer. The 2015-16 roster will likely look much different.
There are so many questions beginning with Embiid. Answers will be on the way. It just may take a while.