Brett Brown sees light at the end of the tunnel. He just signed a two-year contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers, one that will hopefully give one of the league’s most respected basketball minds the opportunity to coach a team worthy of his obvious ability.
There are several players on which that possibility hinges. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel immediately come to mind, as do less heralded youngsters like Robert Covington and Jerami Grant. Croatian star Dario Saric is coming stateside next season, and the Sixers will have another high draft pick come June, too.
But the fate of Philadelphia’s process likely still lies in the hands of Joel Embiid more than anyone else. And if Brown’s latest assessment of the injured big man’s mental growth is any indication, Embiid may have a better chance of delivering on that promise than most are anticipating.
In a story on the Sixers’ website, Brown insists that the lack of maturity which plagued the No. 3 pick of the 2014 draft last season is no longer a cause for concern.
Brown has observed a key area of growth in Embiid, saying “Mentally, leaps and bounds. Let’s just start there. I just know that what I see, just a committed, hopeful athlete. He sees that he’s doing the right thing. He feels like he’s doing the right thing. He is doing the right things. And so, I just see somebody that’s got that edge where he wants to get going again. I think mentally, it’s night and day from talking to him at this time December of last year.”
Embiid, considered one of the best interior talents to enter the league in the past decade, came under fire in recent months after reports of his poor work ethic and inconsistent commitment to rehabilitation made the media rounds. Many Philadelphia naysayers even believe that his lack of preparation was what prompted a setback and subsequent additional surgery in his ongoing recovery from a Jones fracture.
In October, an especially scathing report on basketball’s most controversial franchise included an amusing yet damning note about the 21-year-old’s penchant for indulging in fast food and “pitchers” of Shirley Temples. The Sixers vehemently denied those latest claims, but hardly did the same last season when news of Embiid’s questionable drive to succeed first surfaced. As they told it, though, his struggles with weight and workouts were more related to youth and acclimation to the NBA lifestyle than innate immaturity.