Injury concerns and questionable conditioning has always been a part of the narrative surrounding Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Everybody knows how talented the three-time All-Star center is, but he always has question marks attached based on outsiders' perception.
Embiid knows his work ethic is strong, despite what the critics believe. However, he also understands he can be better than he was last season. Compared to his 2018-2019 season, Embiid had a down year in 2019-2020.
Last season, the seven-footer averaged 23 points-per-game, 1.3 blocks, and 11.6 total rebounds. Two seasons ago, those numbers were up to 27 points-per-game, 1.9 blocks, and 13.6 rebounds. Mix his statistics in with the fact that the Sixers got swept in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs and Embiid believes his year was disappointing.
“It’s tough -- last year we didn't win," Embiid said to Sixers reporter Brian Seltzer. "We thought we could accomplish winning the whole thing. We didn’t even come close. Obviously, we had bad luck with injuries and stuff, but that should never be an excuse. For me, as you know, it was kinda ridiculous I didn’t make any All-NBA teams, and that sucks. It was kind of like a punch in the gut. It was very disappointing."
While Embiid is upset with last season's outcome, he isn't hanging his head over it. Instead, the Sixers' big man has been hitting the gym every day in hopes of getting back to his best form since he's been in the NBA.
“For the past month and a half, almost two months, I’ve been doing basketball basically every single day trying to get better and stay in shape," Embiid explained, via Seltzer. “I got to do better. I got to go back to the Joel Embiid from two years ago when I averaged 28 points and was the best defensive player in the league."
This year, Embiid and the 76ers are getting a fresh start with a new head coach and a change in personnel that better suits the team's two All-Stars. While the Sixers' big man still has to put in a lot of work and show up ready to show out this season, the team's front office put him in a much better position to succeed this offseason.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_