One of the knocks against Joel Embiid in his young career has been his health. Some of that has been outside his control given the injuries he's sustained. But other questions have emerged about his conditioning or diet in the past.
"This summer is the one that I really tried to really focus on it. By just having my own chef, nutritionist, my own [physical therapist] and massage therapist. Just doing whatever I can to take care of my body and so I'm able to play 20 years here in Philly. I think that's the thing I've learned the most since I've been in the league, and it was a short time between the end of this past season and this new season, but it's a work in progress. You've got to start somewhere but it's been going great, and I'm still learning every single day."
Contrast that to Embiid's comments at the team's 2019 media day, when he said he spent the offseason trying to get better but hadn't made any changes to his diet.
"I haven't done anything differently," he said at the time, per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. "I just try to eat the right way. I haven't cut out anything. I've just been extremely focused on what I had to do."
The Sixers have had quite the offseason. They have a new head coach in Doc Rivers, a new president of basketball operations in Daryl Morey and a rebuilt roster that includes the additions of Seth Curry, Danny Green, Dwight Howard and first-round pick Tyrese Maxey and the departures of Al Horford and Josh Richardson.
Those changes added some necessary spacing around Embiid and Ben Simmons, with Embiid noting he is looking forward to working with Curry.
"Especially with Seth, I would probably want to have the same relationship that I had with JJ [Redick], especially the way we moved and the way we played off of each other," he said. "Me setting screens for him and sometimes him setting screens for me and just playing that two-man game. I think we have some potential there."
Embiid also said he wanted to get back to being "the driving force of the defense."
"I got to get back to two or three years ago when I used to be all over the place defensively and do my job and try to be up there when it comes to those awards and stuff," he said. "That's where it starts. It starts defensively and then as a team, we just got to come together. I feel like we've been doing a great job with the system that we put in place."
Despite so many changes, however, everything in Philadelphia still revolves around the team's stars. A healthy, in-shape Embiid is arguably the best two-way big man in the league not named Anthony Davis. With Simmons, the question always revolves around his jump shot, or lack thereof. And of course, the long-term question is whether the Embiid-Simmons pairing best complements either player's skill set.
For now, the Sixers believe that duo can lead them to titles. The 2020-21 season will be another clue as to whether they are right.