76ers set for another dismal season in Year 3 of rebuild
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Joel Embiid's latest jam session has the injured Philadelphia 76ers center bobbing his head as he lip syncs to a French rap song.
Embiid's caption under the Instagram video says, ''VALIDEE.''
The Sixers hope they soon will be too for drafting the big man with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014.
Because it's the photo a few squares down on his feed that really concerns the Sixers. It's a picture of Embiid in a hospital gown with tubes out of his nose in the wake of yet another surgery on his right foot.
His caption reads, ''Excited for the future.''
The future is about all the Sixers can look forward to. The present paints a grim portrait of franchise still stumbling through a painful rebuilding process.
Under coach Brett Brown, the Sixers are 37-127 the last two seasons and watched their ''Together We Build'' mantra suffer a blow when Embiid sat out last season and will again miss this one.
Back to the drawing board, they drafted another big man in Duke's Jahlil Okafor with the No. 3 pick and will pair him with second-year forward Nerlens Noel in attempt to build an NBA-caliber frontcourt. One problem. Yup, Okafor is sidelined with knee soreness and sat out games and practices this week.
No wonder the franchise is derisively nicknamed Tankadelphia.
The draft lottery is one more thing the Sixers can't win. Team president Sam Hinkie has tried his hardest to strip the franchise of talent in exchange for draft picks but still couldn't finish with the worst record in the league each of the last two seasons.
At best, the Sixers are a 20-win team.
But if Noel or Okafor are hurt or ineffective, look out Philly. The worst may yet still be ahead.
''This group will play hard. I have no doubts about that,'' Hinkie said. ''There's a character about most guys here and they're hungry. A lot of them are in the league for the first time and they want to show what they have and they truly belong.''
Some things of note for the 76ers' season:
JUST AROUND THE CORNER: Just how much more losing can Brown take? Brown, a longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, enters the third year of a four-year contract. Already speculation has heated up on an extension - would Philly offer one and does Brown even want one? Not even Brown knew the rebuilding road would be this rocky, capped by a 2014 draft with two top-10 picks who have yet to play for the 76ers. ''I wouldn't be telling the truth if you told me when I accepted this position this would be where we are at,'' Brown said. ''And it's important that people hear me, that is not at all delivered as a negative message. I'm excited. It's taken different turns along the way with Joel and draft picks and a fairly active revolving door.''
THE LITTLEST REBEL: Embiid's work ethic has been questioned since last season and his social media feeds - Shirley Temple reviews and more photos of him in hospital caps - have sparked debate that the 7-footer out of Kansas will ever be worth the pick. Former Cleveland Cavaliers big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who battled similar foot woes, visited Embiid following surgery to offer advice on how to bounce back and spend his time rehabbing. Embiid had no pain leading into the surgery and shot 3-pointers and even dunked before games in the final month of last season.
YOUNG PEOPLE: When Okafor was surprisingly available when Philadelphia was on the clock with the No. 3 pick during the NBA draft, the 76ers didn't hesitate to take him. He is considered the most offensively skilled big to come out of college in years. Okafor, who won a national title in his one season at Duke, has inherited the baton from Michael Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid as the latest Sixers' cornerstone star. The looming question is, who will get him the ball?
BRIGHT EYES: Brown hopes Tony Wroten can recover from injury, Nik Stauskas will benefit from a fresh start on a new team, and Jerami Grant and Robert Covington can turn into serviceable players to nudge the Sixers closer to the 20-win mark. Hinkie would like at least one more season on the NBA's bottom floor to add another lottery pick to his nucleus.
I'LL BE SEEING YOU: The Sixers not only expect a playoff team to emerge from the wreckage in the coming years, they want to build the franchise at a state-of-the art practice facility in Camden, New Jersey. Construction is underway and it should be ready in time for next season.