Center Joel Embiid is the greatest unknown of many great unknowns in the Philadelphia 76ers' rebuilding plan. The third-overall pick of the 2014 draft has yet to play a game for the Sixers in any competition but remains a tantalizing prospect based on the combination of size and skill he showed in his lone season at Kansas. It's arguable that he's still the team's best chance at a star regardless of the ongoing foot problems that put his entire NBA career into jeopardy.
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A new report on Embiid's rehab serves as yet another example of his atypical status. According to Tom Moore of The Intelligencer, Embiid is receiving treatment in Qatar:
Joel Embiid wasn't with the 76ers when they returned from the six-day all-star break Wednesday evening.
Embiid was in Doha, which is the capital of Qatar, consulting and rehabilitating his twice surgically repaired right foot at Aspetar, which bills itself as "the world's leading specialized orthopedic and sports medicine hospital." [...]
The source called this a "previously scheduled" trip at a facility the organization had investigated for roughly six months and referred to it as "a kick-start to the next phase" of Embiid's rehab.
The source, emphasizing Embiid hasn't had a setback, said Embiid's stay involves "evaluation, consultation, training and meeting with lots of specialists."
Plenty of world-class soccer players work with what the main source referred to as "a high-performance hospital."
Patients sometimes go to European, Caribbean and other countries for procedures that have yet to be approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though the source said Embiid's not receiving stem-cell treatment or anything of that sort.
This is in many ways a perfectly normal decision. Aspetar has relationships with some of the biggest names in European soccer — the front page of their website features the images of Didier Drogba and several members of Paris Saint-Germain — so it's not as if Embiid has ventured all that way to visit some random Middle Eastern hospital. We can assume he's getting excellent treatment. Perhaps it's best to think of this move as similar to Kobe Bryant's decision to get special knee treatment (although there's no evidence that Embiid is undergoing procedures not approved by the FDA). He's just heading elsewhere to seek out the best available treatment.
Nevertheless, this news does not exactly inspire confidence in Embiid's future health. It's inescapable that most teams aren't sending their 21-year-old prospects to Qatar for treatment. It's a good thing that the 76ers are looking at every option here, but future stars are typically not in such condition that teams have to go to the other side of the world for solutions. It's a mark of his situation that it was even a consideration.
Anything that gets Embiid back on the court in a reasonable timeframe is good news for the player, the Sixers, their fans, and really just anyone who likes to see a young man reach his potential. But it's probably worth tempering our expectations for his debut. It would be impressive if Embiid had any lengthy NBA career at all, let alone one befitting a star.
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