As the 2014-15 season came careening to an end, 76ers coach Brett Brown was optimistic.
And rightfully so.
Nerlens Noel would be back in 2015-16 with experience. Tony Wroten would likely be back. Potential cornerstone center Joel Embiid would be slowly making his way into the lineup. Dario Saric would be one year close to joining the Sixers, giving them an imposing frontcourt of Noel, Embiid and Saric.
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Well … about that optimism?
Noel is healthy. That’s good news.
But Embiid’s right foot hasn’t healed as quickly as the franchise had hoped. In fact, his status is unclear and it’s even conceivable he could miss a second full season.
"We're trying to figure out, with a 21-year-old, how do you focus wholly on long-term health and wellness and make sure he's OK," Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil said recently on Comcast SportsNet’s ‘Breakfast On Broad.’. "So what we're doing now is seeing experts, the best experts from around the world to make sure we make the right decisions with him and his family and do the best. And everyone wants to jump to the worst conclusion, which is… people can jump to whatever they want. It's just not healing at the same rate we'd like to see."
Embiid is the key to the rebuild of the Sixers, who have won a combined 37 games the last two seasons.
"We're still waiting," O'Neil said on the show. "We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these — you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they would love to see us."
Saric, who was picked by the Sixers in the first round (12thoverall) of the 2014 draft, was believed to be possibly joining the team this season. Now, it could be at least two more years.
Saric’s agent Jeff Schwartz told ESPN.com that Saric will stay with his team in Turkey and definitely won’t play for the Sixers this season.
With the draft approaching on Thursday night, the Sixers have a variety of options. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford reported that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is leaning toward 7-foot-1 Kristaps Porzingis instead of guards D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay.
With Hinkie’s history, no one truly knows what will happen.
But selecting Porzingis would be a fascinating choice considering the murky future of Embiid and Saric.
What was supposed to be an intriguing season on the horizon suddenly could be maddening once again.
Without Embiid and Saric, the Sixers will be challenged on a daily basis.
Brown said that wins will be vital this season. Without an improved roster from top to bottom, this will be a tough task.
The Sixers will surely be active on draft night with one first round pick and five choices in the second round.
Trades are always a possibility with Hinkie.
With the frustrating news lately, the fans could use more reasons to be optimistic.