As the NBA season restart looms, teams are arriving in Orlando ready to get back on track after more than four months since the season was suspended on March 11.
MORE: Philadelphia 76ers schedule for restart of 2019-20 season in Orlando
For the Philadelphia 76ers, who have struggled in an up-and-down season, the NBA hiatus has afforded their key players time to get healthy and re-focus, with their centrepiece in Joel Embiid ready to take on an even bigger role as the team's dominant big man.
"For me, it's just about being myself," Embiid said. "I need to be more assertive. This year, there was a lot of times I was not into the offence and I was just going through the motion and all that stuff. With the playoffs coming in, I need to be more assertive, demand the ball, and do what I do."
"I know what I'm capable of," he continued. "I know what my teammates think of me. I know I'm capable of carrying the team. It's all about me being assertive. If I feel like I'm not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do, but at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about not getting the ball just because of who I am. I believe I can carry the team and I believe by being able to do that, I just need to take matters into my own hands."
Those words from Embiid will be music to the ears of 76ers head coach Brett Brown, who raved about his big man's preparations heading into the bubble, with Embiid reportedly in the gym six days a week.
"There is nobody on our team that has put in more time than Joel Embiid," Brown said.
"Forget what he has actually done in the gym for a minute, just go to the man hours and consecutive days and the amount of days that he has put in over the past few months. I'm proud of him, I respect him. He needed to do it. We understand the impact he can have on our team."
Embiid is averaging 23.4 points and 11.8 rebounds this season and on any given night, he is more than capable of being the best player on the floor on either team and the 76ers will need the 7'2" juggernaut to not only anchor their defence, but embrace his role as the no.1 option on the offensive end.
"Before the season got suspended, we had a lot to work on," Embiid added. "Our offence wasn't there, it was getting better with all the changes that had to be made, it was getting better, but it still wasn't there. Defensively, I feel like we are the best defensive team in the league. We've got the pieces that we need and offensively, we were still trying to figure out and we were getting better so I think the focus needs to be getting together and figuring out the best way to attack offensively."
The contrasting styles of Embiid's post-up dominance and fellow All-Star Ben Simmons' fastbreak transition game, at times sees the 76ers offence lacking cohesion, but with both players at full health, Philly will need to find a balance between their two stars in order to emerge as a legitimate championship contender.
"We're going to need him," Embiid said of his Aussie teammate.
"It's a team game. I'm going to do my best to keep helping him and create some space for him, and we all got to do the same thing just to help each other. At the end of the day, it's all about winning a championship, and I feel like he has the right mindset, that's what he wants to do. I know one thing about him, he wants to win, and he's going to do what it takes to win. So whatever we're going to need him to do, that's what he has to do."
The 76ers currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference (39-26) tied with the fifth-seed Indiana Pacers and two games back of the fourth-seed Miami Heat.
Philly will play three scrimmage games in Orlando prior to the restart of the regular season, where they'll face the Indiana Pacers first up. on August 1.
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