The French are already scaring folks, and the subsequent sentence is a merely scary thought for Team USA, the Australians or another high nation with grand designs of males’s basketball World Cup titles and Olympic gold.

There is an actual likelihood Joel Embiid plays for Les Bleus, lining up subsequent to fellow 7-footers Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama, both this summer time or subsequent.

How may any nationwide staff cease such a trio?

“They can’t,” stated Gobert, the 7-foot-2, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year whose recreation is ideal for worldwide guidelines. “But the international game is not about getting the best players on paper.

“If Joel’s heart is with us and he wants to do it for the right reasons, it would be an amazing opportunity for our team.”

OK, just a little context. Nearly two weeks in the past, Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves had been in Philadelphia for a recreation towards Embiid and the 76ers. Earlier within the week, Wembanyama, the 18-year-old, 7-foot-4 French phenom, scored 19 factors in 24 minutes for France in a blowout win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, clinching a spot for Les Bleus within the 2023 World Cup.

(So you’re conscious, the Americans haven’t but certified for the World Cup, have misplaced two video games within the qualifying rounds, and although they are going to more than likely get via, there’s at the very least a smidgeon of stress for them to win one among two qualifying video games in February.)

Gobert is a constant member of the French nationwide staff and was on the ground for France’s wins over Team USA on the 2019 World Cup in China and within the Olympics opener in 2021, in addition to for its five-point loss to the Americans within the gold-medal recreation in Tokyo.

Wembanyama, the likely No. 1 pick of the 2023 NBA Draft, is just about assured a spot on the roster for the upcoming World Cup and the Olympics.

What is talked about much less, partly as a result of he doesn’t focus on it publicly, is that Embiid is now a French citizen and will staff up with them. The Athletic requested Gobert in Philadelphia concerning the prospect of enjoying with Embiid, a perennial NBA MVP candidate. His reply was shocking.

“For me the most important thing is if his heart tells him to be a part of Team France,” Gobert instructed The Athletic. “I want him to do it for the right reasons. As long as he understands that the French national team is different than the NBA. We have rules, we have things that we do. Sometimes we all have lunch and dinner together — it’s not everybody doing their own thing. These are two different teams.

“But I think the main thing for us, for him and for me is that I want to make sure that he does it from his heart. And if he does that, I think he would be an amazing addition for our team.”

Gobert, who stated he’s pleasant with Embiid, stated he wouldn’t search to personally recruit Embiid to Team France however was conscious that Embiid had spoken with the New York Knicks’ Evan Fournier about probably becoming a member of.

“It has to come from him,” Gobert stated. “You are either all in, or you’re not. You can’t just show up.”


France gamers obtain their silver medal in the course of the Olympics final summer time in Tokyo. (Kyle Terada / USA Today)

Those are pointed phrases, virtually a stern warning, for a five-time NBA All-Star who has averaged at the very least 30 factors in every of his final two seasons, together with this present one.

Embiid, who was made conscious of Gobert’s feedback, initially agreed to be interviewed and even recommended a non-public telephone name for the interview. But per week later, following the ankle damage he sustained towards Gobert’s Timberwolves, Embiid declined to remark for this story.

Embiid perhaps set a modern record last summer, gaining citizenship in two totally different nations through which he was not born inside the span of two months. Born in Cameroon, the 28-year-old Embiid additionally earned his American citizenship.

That’s proper, he’s eligible to play for Team USA too.

So maybe Gobert, in speaking about Embiid’s coronary heart being in it, was talking about enjoying for love of nation and nationwide delight — which might be tougher for Embiid as a result of he by no means lived there. He has household dwelling in France and speaks the language fluently, however he has lived the final 12 years within the U.S.

But what concerning the different a part of Gobert’s feedback? About attending staff dinners and being selfless.

“I can understand where that notion comes from,” Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris instructed The Athletic on Wednesday in Cleveland.

This is Harris’ fifth season as Embiid’s teammate, and Harris described Embiid as a non-public, shy particular person. He stated Embiid was not one to affix Sixers teammates for staff dinners up till concerning the final two seasons, as COVID-19 restrictions eased and Harris started organizing occasional get-togethers for all of Philadelphia’s gamers.

“It took me a minute to get him, to get him to start coming because he’s very particular with how he eats his food,” Harris stated. “It’s mind-blowing. But now he knows, I’ll always have him set up wherever we go. Like, he’s gonna get the food the way that he likes it.”

Harris couldn’t bear in mind the date however stated he thought he first broke via with Embiid at a staff dinner in New Orleans, coincidentally the American dwelling for French delicacies. Harris stated he remembers Embiid nodding, smiling and saying, “Yeah, we need to do more of these.”

“I had a convo with him, like, it’s important that he is at these types of things,” Harris stated. “I mean, you don’t have to be at every single thing, you still have family responsibilities and things of that nature, but your presence is extremely important to the whole group.

“His natural personality is very calm and laid back,” Harris continued. “He keeps to himself. That’s just his personality. I think if you sat down and had lunch with him, you’d be like, ‘He talks so much.’ Whenever he’s comfortable, he’s always talking. When we have team dinners and he’s with us, he’s probably the guy who talks the most. He’s always involved in conversation. Once he trusts you and gets to know you, he’s more outgoing.”

Matisse Thybulle, in his fourth season as Embiid’s teammate on the Sixers, can also be an completed worldwide participant as a member of Team Australia. He agreed that the ambiance on a nationwide staff could be an adjustment for Embiid as a result of, “for guys who haven’t been exposed to the national team stuff, it can be uncomfortable or just different in the sense of sacrifice.

“You’re risking your physical health and summer vacation, and all these guys have consciously made that decision to be a part of this, so they are fully committed,” Thybulle stated this week. “That means team dinners — everyone’s there. Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it all as a team, and there’s really no space for individualism. The NBA is a different world.

“For Joel, at least having not done it before, it would probably be a new experience and a learning curve for him to get associated with that kind of stuff.”

Thybulle’s first season with Embiid was in 2019-20, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the season resulted in a bubble at Walt Disney World. Thybulle stated Embiid largely stored to himself on the time, however “it was super hit or miss — guys showing up — because everyone was in their own world just trying to survive that whole situation.

“And then he had a kid, so it was like, he realized what family meant for him, and now I think he’s kind of discovering that balance of reintroducing himself, like the team dynamic, as far as extracurricular stuff,” Thybulle stated.

Gobert was with the Utah Jazz in 2020, and so they had been additionally bubble individuals. Players frolicked with teammates and with guys from different groups every evening on the motels. If Embiid was largely lacking from these gatherings, Gobert might have heard about it or seen it himself.

“Everyone loves having Joel around,” Thybulle stated. “He’s the guy making the most noise at the card table. On the bench, he’s one of the loudest when it comes to supporting second-unit guys. It’s just a matter of getting him there.”

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Matisse Thybulle and Joel Embiid (Mitchell Leff / USA Today)

Thybulle, who gained bronze with the Australians in Tokyo, stated he referred to as Embiid after the Olympics and poured out his enthusiasm for what he’d simply skilled. Thybulle wished to know if he’d bought Embiid, if he’d throw his hat in for the subsequent cycle, and for whom? “He was like, ‘I’ll think about it,’” Thybulle recalled.

American NBA stars worth the Olympics over the FIBA World Cup. Foreign-born gamers within the league are usually extra prepared to commit the identical period of time and power to their nationwide groups, whatever the worldwide competitors.

Given that Embiid has by no means performed for any nationwide staff and has for years lived the lifetime of an NBA star in America, maybe it’s extra possible he would select to play in an Olympics over the World Cup, particularly contemplating the Olympics are in Paris (the World Cup will likely be within the Philippines).

And then there’s the matter of which staff he’d play for. Officials for each the Americans and French have confirmed they’d like to have him. Obviously.

Recent American squads have been skinny within the frontcourt. One may make the case that Team USA wants Embiid given how troublesome the final two cycles have been.

Conversely, including Embiid to a lineup that already has Gobert and Wembanyama?

“If they added Joel Embiid to that team, it’s like, ‘OK, it’s not so much we have to get through Team USA, it’s we have to figure out what to do with France,’” Thybulle stated.

And then, as Thybulle listed off the rising record of international NBA superstars enjoying for his or her nations, akin to Giannis Antetokounmpo with Greece, Nikola Jokić with Serbia and Luka Dončić with Slovenia, to say nothing of the deep rosters in Australia and France, he stated: “I think there is a good chance we see a Joel Embiid at the Olympics.”

(Photo of Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)



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