U.S. coach Steve Kerr hoping Joel Embiid ready by Olympics

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Thursday, February 8, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- Joel Embiid's timeline to return to the Philadelphia 76ers is still unclear following knee surgery. His availability this summer for the U.S. Olympic team is just as murky.

U.S. coach Steve Kerr texted this week with Embiid, mostly to wish the NBA MVP well in his recovery from Tuesday's procedure to address an injury to the lateral meniscus in his left knee. Kerr even hoped to meet up with Embiid -- out at least four weeks, likely much longer -- before the Warriors played the 76ers on Wednesday night.

Kerr said he just wanted to say hello.

The Warriors coach might not get a chance to see much more of Embiid beyond this week, with knee surgery, rehabilitation -- even the 76ers' wishes -- all playing a role in determining the 7-footer's shot at Olympic gold.

"There's not a whole lot we can do about it," Kerr said ahead of Wednesday's game. "We're hoping that he's healthy and ready to go. If not, we'll have to replace him."

The NBA's two-time scoring champion, Embiid told USA Basketball in October that, after more than a year of deliberating, he had picked the Americans over France as his team for the Paris Olympics.

USA Basketball does not plan to name its team until the spring of 2024, but if healthy, Embiid seemed to have a lock on one of the 12 spots on the squad that will be coached by Kerr with assistants Erik Spoelstra of Miami, Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga.

"Our fingers are crossed he'll be healthy this summer and able to play," Kerr said. "He's an amazing player and we're really excited to have him be part of the program."

Embiid became a U.S. citizen last year and could have also chosen to play for France or even Cameroon, his homeland, if it qualified for the Paris Games. Cameroon will be among 24 teams playing for the final four spots in the 12-nation Olympic field next summer; the U.S., France, World Cup champion Germany, Serbia, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Sudan have already qualified for Paris.

"For the past few years, every decision I've made has been based on just family. My family, my son, and having the chance to represent a country like the U.S., with my son being born here," Embiid said in October. "I love my home country, but I really wanted to play in the Olympics."

The U.S. will try for a fifth consecutive gold medal at Paris next summer. Embiid joins a long list of top NBA players who are hoping or planning to play for the U.S. next summer, including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker and many more.

If he plays and the U.S. wins, Durant would be the first men's player with four basketball golds.

It could be his last.

"It looks like this summer would be a little bit of a last hurrah for some of the guys on the team," Kerr said. "You wouldn't expect Steph and LeBron and Kevin to all be there in 2028. You never know. It does seem like it's a time where some of the younger guys could be transitioning into leadership roles. Having coached a young group last summer in the World Cup, I mean, the guys who jumped out to me are Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton. Those guys were fantastic and really good leaders. Jalen Brunson was great. It's such a fun group to work with."

Kerr said he was thrilled to add Embiid to the talent pool.

Only two weeks after Embiid scored a franchise-best 70 points, he is expected to miss significant time because of the knee injury believed to have been suffered in a hard fall last week at Golden State. The 76ers did not release any kind of timetable on Embiid's return, saying only that this season's scoring leader at 35.3 points will be evaluated in four weeks.

"We want everybody healthy, especially our star players in the league," Kerr said. "They're the ones who really drive the entertainment."