When looking at players who’ve gone through similar injury situations as Joel Embiid and went on to have productive careers, the list is quite slim; however, one name that does stand out is that of former Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z broke the navicular bone in his left foot five games into the 1999 campaign, the second season of his career. He missed the remainder of that season, as well as the entirety of his age-24 season the following year.
Big Z ultimately went on to play 62 games in the 2002 season and then at least 73 games from 2003 to 2008, making two All-Star teams in that time frame. If there’s anyone who knows the brutal struggle Embiid has undergone over the last two years, it’s Ilgauskas. This makes the 76ers’ decision to bring in Ilgauskas to serve as a mentor to Embiid, per the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, that much better.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas attended the #Sixers training-camp practice. He's a mentor to Joel Embiid.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 27, 2016
Between Ilgauskas and Elton Brand helping guide Embiid through his injury and off-the-court issues, the right people have been placed around him for him to succeed. It’s now up to him to shine once his health allows him to step on the court and be that franchise cornerstone that everyone is expecting him to be.
Other tidbits from the first day of camp:
- The Fresh Prince of Philly:
The #Sixers had dinner with Will Smith last night at One Liberty Place. The actor owns a portion of the team.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 27, 2016
- Embiid’s Flu Game Moment:
Embiid is sick with flu symptoms but practiced today under restrictions.— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoCSN) September 27, 2016
- The Nerlens Noel Conundrum:
Brett Brown on @NerlensNoel3: "I don't begrudge Nerlen Noel at all for what he said."— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 27, 2016
- T.J. McConnell does cool thing to allow Gerald Henderson to honor his dad:
McConnell switched his jersey number from #12 to #1 for this season, per Pompey. The reason being to allow Henderson to wear #12, the number which Henderson’s father, Gerald Henderson Sr., wore for the Sixers during the 1989 season, his lone year in Philly.