Joel Embiid was asked a simple question. The 76ers' franchise player responded with a telling answer.
Following Monday's practice, he was asked what the Sixers want to show the rest of the NBA about where the franchise is right now, knowing its past struggles.
"A lot of people say that we have a bright future," Embiid said. "But I think our time is now. We have a pretty good chance [to contend for a title]. We have a special team, you know, a lot of great guys. I don't think we need anybody else."
The Sixers have exceeded even their own expectations this season. Up 3-1, they have an opportunity to close out their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers finished the regular season at 52-30 and concluded the campaign with 16 straight wins, setting a league mark for the most consecutive victories to end a season.
Yet, the Sixers are expected to be a major player in free agency this summer. They'll have enough cap space to lure an A-list free-agent, most notably LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar will become a free agent on July 1. The Sixers, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Cavs are believed to be on his short list of teams.
However, as Embiid points out, the Sixers have a good thing going with the roster as it is currently constructed.
The problem is that their third-best player (JJ Redick) and three key reserves (Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and Amir Johnson) all have contracts that expires come July. The Sixers signed Redick and Johnson this past summer and Belinelli along with Ilysaova to help make a postseason push.
This summer was supposed to be the time when they add a key piece to make them a legitimate contender. But this group of Sixers are making everyone in the league take notice.
"So we got to work with what we have, and we have a special team," Embiid said.
He thinks the team can go far in the playoffs by taking care of the little things like limiting turnovers.
"Just playing together like we've been doing," he said, "sharing the ball, not be selfish and everything is going to take care of itself."
Embiid, however, has received advice about the playoffs from close friend and Golden State Warriors standout Draymond Green.
The all-star power told Embiid via a text message that Game 2 "wasn't go to be the same" after the Sixers beat the Heat, 130-103, in Game 1. He was right. The Sixers lost Game 2 before winning the next two games.
"So tomorrow is going to be different," Embiid said. "They are going to try to come in and play with the same energy that we play, and be physical. We've been responding well. We just got to be the physical team tomorrow. We got to set the tone."
Turning on the switch, the Sixers were able to outplay Miami in the fourth quarter of the last two games. Embiid thinks that started on the defensive end, where the team has been able to get stops and be physical. He added how the team shared the ball and made shots, offensively, in the fourth quarters.
"It's just been amazing to see how much we've grown since the beginning of the year," Embiid said, "because I think that was one our biggest flaws. We couldn't close out games or we would blow leads.
"So I've been excited to see how much we've grown."
Right now, the 7-foot-2, 280-pounder is still getting adjusted to playing again. He had been sidelined for 10 straight games before playing in Thursday night's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Embiid said his body was hurting all over.
But he added it doesn't matter how he's feeling when it comes to basketball. Embiid said he forgets about everything.
In the first game, Embiid finished with 23 points while making 3 of 4 three-pointers. He also finished with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in 30 minutes, 21 seconds.
Then on Saturday, he scored 14 points while going 0 for 4 on threes and 2 for 11 from the field overall. Embiid also had 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers in 31:14.
"It's about me letting the game come to me," he said of settling in. "But it starts on the defensive end."