It's all about Joel Embiid.
The 76ers center has been ruled out for the first two preseason games while rehabilitating after meniscus surgery in his left knee. Embiid said last week that he expects to return for the season opener Oct. 18 at Washington. And while he's close, the 23-year-old has yet to be cleared for five-on-five, full-court scrimmaging.
Yet Embiid has had a major influence on the preseason practices. Each morning, the Sixers coaching staff meets with the team's medical staff.
"We learn from the medical people what we are able to get out of Joel Embiid," coach Brett Brown said. "We sort of design the practice based on what the advice is from the medical people."
As a result, the Sixers have been doing a lot of half-court scrimmages — more than Brown would like. But he said the team is making progress in trying to execute better.
The ultimate goal of the preseason is to structure the practices to slowly bring Embiid back into the mix. At the same time, he's getting used to playing with his new teammates and vice versa.
Embiid participated in some end-of-game drills during the portion of the practice that the media watched. The Sixers said he hasn't been cleared for all-out five-on-five scrimmages. However, they said their franchise player played "three-quarters of a court" in five-on-five scrimmages on Tuesday.
"We feel good about where's at right now," Brown said. "He's doing more than I expected as a coach. … I have been able to coach him longer than I had expected."
Apparently, Embiid's workouts aren't confined to the team's practice facility. He was spotted playing tennis Sunday night on a Philly court. Then a Lyft driver saw him jogging in the city Tuesday night. Brown said Embiid, who was unavailable to the media, was heading home after a second night of tennis with a member of the Sixers' coaching staff.
But why would a high-profile athlete jog in the streets and on sidewalks late at night? What if he came across pushy, autograph-seeking fans or hecklers and put himself in harm's way?
"He declares himself to be a man of the people," Brown said. "I think that is true. He's proud of that and I think he lives it."
Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins spoke to the 76ers on Tuesday morning before practice.
Dawkins was the team's second guest speaker this preseason. Hall of Famer and former Sixer Charles Barkley addressed the squad on Sept. 25, the night before training camp started.
Dawkins is a Philadelphia fan favorite, having played for the Eagles from 1996-2008. He went on to play for the Denver Broncos for the next three seasons. Dawkins ended his career as a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL all-decade team for the 2000s. The Eagles retired his No. 20 jersey.