The Philadelphia 76ers are “trusting the process” to the tune of $148 million.
Oft-injured 23-year-old center Joel Embiid — who has played just 31 games through the first three years of his NBA career after also missing the 2014 Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments because of a back injury suffered in a one-and-done college season at Kansas — on Monday agreed in principle to a 5-year, $148 million designated rookie scale maximum contract extension, ESPN reported.
A fan favorite in Philly in part because of the “Trust the Process” mantra he created on Twitter, 7-footer Embiid has earned just under $14 million thus far as a pro. He would have been a restricted free agent after the 2017-18 season had he not reached agreement with Philly by the Oct. 16 deadline.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that Embiid could net as much as $178 million on his new contract if he “earns either all-NBA first, second or third team, or is named MVP.”
Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, missed the first two seasons of his NBA career because of a pair of surgeries to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. He played well in 31 games in 2016-17, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, before succumbing to knee surgery on March 24.
He has missed the first three exhibition games of the 2017-18 preseason as the team takes a cautious approach to his return from the meniscus tear in his left knee. His last game played was Jan. 27.
Embiid last week was cleared for five-on-five full-court scrimmaging. He missed Monday’s game at Boston, but as of Monday night had not yet been ruled out of Friday’s exhibition against the Miami Heat at the Sprint Center. The Sixers also have a game Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets in Long Island, N.Y.
Addressing the injuries, Wojnarowski did report Monday that the new Embiid contract will include “some salary-cap protection for the 76ers should Embiid suffer injury that causes him to miss significant playing time.”
Embiid discussed his contract situation at Sixers media day a couple weeks ago.
“At the end of the day, I don’t have any leverage,” he told reporters in Philly. “I am going into my fourth season. I will be a restricted free agent. There’s no leverage. They can do whatever they want. There have been discussions about it. Hopefully something gets worked out. I’m worried about getting back on the court. That’s all I care about. If it happens, it’s going to happen. If if doesn’t I’ve got to keep focus on the fourth season. After this year I’ll be a free agent. We are going to see what comes with it.”
He made it clear at media day he wanted to be a Sixer a long time.
“I love the city of Philadelphia,” Embiid said. “They’ve got the best fans. I went to the (Eagles) game yesterday. It was probably the most love I’ve got in the city yet. The love I got walking around and people screaming my name, ‘Trust the Process’ all over the place. It was amazing. It shows you that the city … they love basketball so much. They love the Sixers.”
Embiid made $4,427,640 his rookie season in 2014-15, $4,626,960 in 2015-16 and $4,826,160 in 2016-17. He’s slated to make $6,100,266 in year four.