If everything goes according to plan, Joel Embiid (right) and Jahlil Okafor will be teeing it up next season.
By Annie Ross
Sixers coach Brett Brown sat in a courtside seat outside the corridor leading to his team’s locker room last night at the Wells.
He was joined in conversation by former NBA center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the topic was to strengthen his bond with Joel Embiid.
Ilgauskas being five seasons removed from his two-time All-Star career, the Sixers believe he can serve as a valuable resource for the 21-year old Embiid.
llgauskas managed to overcome two severe foot injuries that cost him both his first and third seasons in the NBA. Despite those setbacks, he still proved to be durable, playing 13 years, all while carrying arond a 7’3,” roughly 240-pound frame.
“It’s one of the things that we’re proud of in trying to help Joel move through this injury, and bring in somebody that’s had two navicular injuries like Z has had,” said Brown.
“They seem to be developing a pretty cool relationship. I think because of Z’s foreign background that Joel looks at him apart from the NBA in respect to somebody that he can communicate with, and identify with a little bit more as a fellow foreigner and a fellow center. So, his story is real. And it really resonates with Joel on the pitfalls of it all and the mental side of it all, and the discipline to take care of your body to get back on the court.”
This past August, Embiid underwent surgery on his right foot for a second time.
“He’s doing great. He’s doing fantastic,” reported Brown. Embiid has been a regular at most home games this season.
“Most importantly, he’s doing fantastic in his mind,” Brown continued. “He is so determined to do everything that he has to do to get it right. There is a real progression in his maturity, and his seriousness, to understand truly what needs to be done for him to give himself every chance to get back on the court. And the Z visit is just another layer for the organization to do things a little bit differently, really try to improve our approach, with people like David Martin and getting creative with guests. He’s doing really well.”
Brown was introduced to Ilgauskas by former Cleveland executive Danny Ferry, who helped run the Cavaliers during the Lithuanian’s 12-year stint with the franchise. While it was Brown who initially put Ilgauskas in touch with Embiid, Martin facilitated Wednesday’s visit.
The Sixers selected Embiid with the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.