By Mary Cunningham

The news about Ben Simmons’ foot injury cast a pall over the team’s first week.

Lucky for them, there are two other prized rookies to take up the slack.

“It went great,” Joel Embiid, the third pick in the 2014 draft, said about camp.

“I think I did good,” reflected Dario Saric (above), who went 12th overall in 2014.

Embiid, of course, missed two seasons with his own right foot injury. Saric spent the past two seasons abroad in the Turkish Basketball Super League and Euroleague.

Examining Embiid’s and Saric’s on-court performance at camp, both had reasons to feel optimistic. Embiid was pleased that, for the most part, he was able to stay on the floor, practicing on the first, second, and fourth days. He discovered his comfort increasing along the way.

“I get it back more and more,” he said yesterday, when the Sixers held their sixth and final workout session at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey.

Saric, focused on showing fight and giving “maximum” effort this week, kept the big picture in mind. Not only is he now competing at a new level professionally, but living in a new country as well.

“I need more time to get everything,” the 22-year old Croatian told the team’s web site. “I think I did okay [in] my first training camp in life in NBA. I’m happy, happy how I did. I think I’ll be a little bit more step by step every day.”

Unlike Saric, Embiid had the benefit of being around the Sixers extensively the previous two campaigns. While recovering from his navicular bone procedures, part of the center’s rehab consisted of mental reps, as Brett Brown required Embiid to learn the team’s schemes and verbiage. The coaching staff also assigned the Kansas product as steady dose of film study. As a result, Embiid found himself prepared to absorb material quickly the last few days.

“It [helped] me a lot,” said Embiid.

Still, he acknowledged that actually playing has brought on a “different feeling.”

“I love it,” he said Friday.

The welcoming of Embiid and Saric is a direct representation of the fresh wave of talent the Sixers acquired this off-season. With half the roster made up of newcomers, the club reaped the rewards of its isolated training camp setting along the Atlantic City area bayfront.

“Being around each other, playing against each other, living with each other, it was great for the group,” said Embiid. “We got to know each other, the new guys, all those guys, so it was great for the team.”

“It means a lot,” Saric added. “You need these days to stay together, to have dinner together, to hangout in hotel with meetings, and things what we have around basketball.

“I think it’s good for us to build team chemistry. It’s very important because we are a young team. Everybody expects from us to move two, three steps up.”

On an individual basis, Embiid and Saric believe that early, modest growth was achieved. Work will continue this weekend, when the Sixers, following an off-day, regroup Sunday for the first full-scale practice at their new training complex in Camden, New Jersey.

The goal for Embiid and Saric will be to continue along their current paths.

“I’m just happy to finally be back on the court,” Embiid said, “and excited.”

From Saric: “I think this is just the beginning. We have around 20 days before the season starts, some exhibition game before season, and I think everything is set-up before this first game.”

The Sixers’ first pre-season outing comes this Tuesday versus the Boston Celtics in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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