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The Philadelphia 76ers and center Joel Embiid have agreed in principle on a 5-year, $148M extension on his rookie contract, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn’t official yet.
Giving Embiid this contract given his injury history shows two things: 1) how much the Sixers believe Embiid is a game-changing talent 2) Philadelphia’s belief that Embiid can remain healthy.
Philadelphia is also managing salary-cap space and believe it can offer max deals to key players when it’s time for a new contract.
The investment does not come without risk for the Sixers. Since they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid has played in just 31 games over three seasons. He missed all of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons after undergoing two surgeries on his right foot to repair a broken navicular bone.
In 31 games last season, Embiid showed what he can do. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists in just 25.4 minutes per game. He also shot 46.6% from the field, including 36.7% on three-pointers.
With his offensive and defensive ability, he can be a franchise player – if healthy. Embiid did not play after the 2017 All-Star because of an injured left knee.
The Sixers know how important Embiid is to their future.
“He is a difference-maker,” Sixers coach and former San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown told reporters Monday evening. “I’ve been lucky in my Spurs life to have anointed others in that sort of category. You don’t give up that tag freely. He has a chance to be great. There’s still lots of work to be done. When you look at his body of work, he’s really only been playing basketball for six years, and he’s 23. He’s just scratching the surface.
“He does things on the court that remind me of somebody who is able to hear music and just play the song. … He’s very unique.”
Embiid, who hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 27, was recently cleared for drills after undergoing surgery in March for a meniscus tear in his left knee.
The Sixers are optimistic about a return for opening night on Oct. 18.
Embiid, at the team’s media day, said he felt his rehab was going well and said that scans of his knee looked “perfect.”
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll play 82 games this year,” he added. “That’s not happening.
“I fell a lot last season,” he joked. “I think it was also because I was flopping so much, so I’ve got to stop flopping so much this season.”
ESPN first reported terms of the deal.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter.
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