PHILADELPHIA — 76ers center Joel Embiid has not been cleared for five-on-five drills as the team takes a cautious approach in his return from his injured left knee.

Embiid, whose career has been riddled with injuries, missed his first two NBA seasons and played in only 31 games last season before undergoing surgery in March to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

Team president Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown said Wednesday the team will soon decide how to handle his playing time when training camp opens next week.

“If you walk in the gym, it looks like he could play five-on-five basketball,” Colangelo said. “But we’re going to take our cues from the people who know best.”

According to Colangelo, those people favor a “hyperconservative progression” for Embiid.

“Will he be ramping that up throughout the preseason?” Colangelo said. “Yes. How many games, we’re not certain. Is it every game? We don’t know. That will be based on what we’re told.”

Colangelo said he was optimistic the Sixers and Embiid could agree to a contract extension before the Oct. 16 deadline.

Colangelo said there were some unspecified criteria Embiid needed to hit before he was cleared for five-on-five drills.

“It’s not about being ready for the first practice or the first game,” Colangelo said. “And he will be out there for the first practice and the first game. The question is how much, how little, if at all. Those things will be determined by certain criteria along the way.”

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds last season.

Colangelo also discussed the status of 2016 No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons, who he says has no restrictions with playing time.

“He’s been playing five-on-five and competing for some time now,” he said, adding that Simmons has been “dominating the gym” during the team’s informal five-on-five games at their practice facility in Camden.

Simmons broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final day of training camp in 2016 after stepping on Shawn Long’s foot. The initial prognosis was a three- to four-month recovery time, but the team announced in February that it was shutting him down for the remainder of the season after tests revealed his foot was not fully healed.

Now completely healthy, Simmons has really impressed Brown, particularly with his quickness.

“When you talk about his sheer body, his athleticism, there is a breakaway speed that is jaw-dropping,” Brown said. Brown even drew comparisons between Simmons and world-class sprinter Usain Bolt.

“We watch him go from A to B, his first step and a half … if you interviewed world-class sprint coaches, they would talk about that. His first steps are elite.

“It’s jaw-dropping at times, his ability to cover ground.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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