NEW ORLEANS – Joel Embiid gave an update on his injured knee Friday, and it sounds like music to the ears of Sixers fans.
"I'm hopeful to come back after All-Star [break]," he said.
When asked if he meant the first game after the break, he said, "Yeah, probably. If the practices go well and I don't get any swelling or soreness, definitely. I work out and it swells up a little bit, and then I take a day and it goes down."
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The Cameroon native is having a season worthy of NBA Rookie of the Year, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, all while playing 25.4 minutes per game. That comes in just 31 games this season due to various injuries.
His latest ailments - a bone bruise and "very minor" meniscus tear in his left knee - have held him out of 12 of the Sixers' last 13 Sixers games. However, the 7-footer looked nimble working with area youth at a Jr. NBA Camp at Tulane University Friday afternoon.
Embiid, who was quick to find a ball and an open hoop whenever there was a lull in the camp, said the talent level in the NBA is impressive.
"I've been surprised by just how good everyone is," he said. "When you get to play against them, you see why they're here. I'm always trying to get better. I really don't think about other things because I just want to get better."
Okafor shrugs off trade talk, enjoys time with friends
Second-year center Jahlil Okafor is making his second appearance at All-Star weekend, and he said time seems to be speeding up as he shares the floor with fellow young stars.
"It's crazy how fast time flies," Okafor said. "I grew up with most of these guys from sixth or seventh grade through AAU and basketball camps. We all come from the same roots. Now, we're all here having a good time."
Okafor also talked about his ever-changing playing status amid trade talks.
"Probably just being unsure, the uncertainty," he said was the hardest part of the situation. "The organization has done a great job of talking with me about what is going on. I've been informed throughout the process. It's just different. I've never been through something like that, so I'm fortunate that everyone in the organization has been talking to me and openly communicating."
Okafor said while it would be fun to play in Chicago – one of his rumored suitors - everything is just speculation at this point.
"It was all rumors," he said. "I've heard 12 or 11 different teams, so I don't know what to believe. The organization will let me know, so I'll be waiting to see what happens. I grew up a Chicago Bulls fans, so I wouldn't be mad at all to play at home. I just have no idea what is going to happen."
Saric excited for honor of Rising Stars Challenge
Rookie forward Dario Saric rounded out the Sixers' player contingent in New Orleans this weekend, and the Croatia native said playing in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge against Okafor is an honor.
"This is something special," Saric said. "It means a lot to be here with all the young players. It's a good thing a lot of European guys are here showing off their ability. A lot of people are watching them back home."