I was a little soft,” Embiid says, “but the Americans had no idea about any of that. They just knew I was from Africa. They thought I grew up poor, in the jungle, killing lions. I was like, If that’s how they think of me, I’m going to use it.”As a boy, he created a persona on the soccer field, turning his cheerful countenance into an unnerving snarl. “Let’s say my team was down 2–0,” Embiid explains.

 

“I’d put my arms out and make this mean face and try to scare everybody. I kind of liked that they were afraid of me.” He went back at his Montverde teammates, specifically five-star center Dakari Johnson, with moves stolen from a Hakeem Olajuwon video he studied six days a week. “Every day we fought,” Embiid remembers. “I had to make sure they stopped making fun of me. I had to let them know I came here for a reason.” Sometimes, Embiid got kicked out of practice, but he didn’t realize until later what coach Kevin Boyle was telling the team in his wake: “Someday, you’re going to be asking that guy for a loan.”  Sam Forencich/Getty ImagesThree years, to be exact. “Everything in my life,” Embiid says, “happens really fast.” And then, with one inaudible crack during a predraft workout in Cleveland, all the action stopped. The 76ers scripted what seemed like a logical rehab plan for their prized rookie.

 

They wanted him around the team NBA 2K18 MT at all times, home and road, so he would not feel isolated. They even acquired Mbah a Moute, who discovered Embiid at his camp in Yaounde, while running an unforgettable fast break. “The guard threw him a pass that was way ahead,” Mbah a Moute recounts. “Jo caught the ball, put it down, spun and finished on the other side of the rim in traffic. He’d been playing for six months. A normal person doesn’t do that.”Embiid was supposed to go to France and enroll at INSEP (National Institute of Sports and Physical Education) for volleyball, and he swears he would have, had his countryman not intervened. Mbah a Moute directed Embiid to powerful Montverde, his own alma mater, but playing time there looked limited. So Mbah a Moute facilitated a transfer to The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., where a blue-chipper was born.As well as Mbah a Moute knew Embiid, even he could not predict the flaws in the 76ers rehab strategy. “They had me traveling all over the place, at every practice, every meeting, on the bench for every game,” Embiid says. “You’re sitting there, we’re losing, and you can’t do anything. It was the worst.” The stereotypical 7-foot import plays because he can. Embiid is different. He fell for basketball later than the average American guards and wings, but he fell just as hard. By stationing him next to the floor, and warning him not to step on it, the Sixers were tempting an addict.No one believes the jumpers Embiid hoisted during his recovery had any tangible effect on the state of his foot. But the navicular bone, which was healing correctly according to five straight MRIs, suddenly reversed course late in the summer of 2015. Embiid, who was dominating the 76ers in pain-free pick-up games, sat stunned in a L.A. doctor’s office as he received the results. Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie and sports scientist David Martin flew west to see him the next morning. Martin was new to the organization and eager to meet Embiid, an inquisitive patient who demanded to understand the rationale behind his treatment.

 

Can Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year? It's unlikely, here's whyWhen Embiid clashed with a Sixers strength and conditioning coach during a road trip in late ’14—a source says the staffer set him on a scale one too many times—he was sent back to Philadelphia. “Joel is a maverick,” Brown says. “He’s curious. He’s competitive. Those qualities are going to allow him to maximize his very evident gifts. But when he was out, those qualities sometimes made it a challenge to always walk that Boy Scout’s line.” Brown looked for something to scare Embiid—“Appropriate fear had to creep in,” the coach says. “‘Maybe I’m going to struggle to play Buy NBA 2K18 MT basketball.

 

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