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Embiid weighing Olympic options, says decision likely soon

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Photo by Mitchell Leff / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Joel Embiid said Monday he expects to make a decision over his international future “in the next few days” as he eyes playing at next year’s Paris Olympics.

The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player is eligible to play for three countries — Cameroon, France and the United States — but admitted he is torn over what he described as a “tough choice.”

The towering Cameroon-born star said playing for the country of his birth would be a no-brainer if the team were likely to qualify for the Olympics.

But with Cameroon not yet confirmed to be in Paris, Embiid admitted that he was considering declaring his allegiance to the United States or France. Embiid holds citizenship for both countries in addition to Cameroon.

“I love all three options,” Embiid told reporters at the Sixers’ media day on Monday.

“Cameroon, I’m born there. I’m from there. I always want to represent my country, but the goal is also to play in Olympics.

“If we had a chance or if we qualified for the Olympics, that would be an easy decision, but that’s still up in the air, and I really do want to play in the Olympics.

“The US, obviously they’ve been struggling the last couple of years trying to get back on the top.

“You also got France, that’s up and coming. I’m just thankful that I’m able to be in that situation.

“It is a tough choice, but probably going to make that decision in the next few days, so we’ll see.”

Embiid, meanwhile, told reporters on Monday the Sixers are capable of challenging for an NBA championship with or without James Harden.

Harden, who did not report for the Sixers media day on Monday, has demanded a trade from the club.

Embiid said he hopes the standoff can be resolved, stating he would welcome Harden back into the locker room.

“If he’s here, we love him,” Embiid said. “We have a better team with him on the floor… James is a really good player.

“We love him on the team. If he’s here — great. We’d love to have him. If he’s not, then we’ve still got a job to do.

“When you play in Philly, it doesn’t matter who’s on the team. If they believe that you have a chance to win a championship, that’s the standard.”

The Sixers’ latest bid for a championship ended in bitter disappointment last season with the team losing a pivotal game seven against the Boston Celtics on home turf in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

That defeat led to the dismissal of coach Doc Rivers, with Philadelphia installing former Toronto coach Nick Nurse as his replacement in June.

Embiid cautioned it may take time for Nurse’s influence to take effect on the team.

“We’re just trying to focus on taking day by day, trying to figure out how to win, as a team with a new coaching staff,” Embiid said.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take for everybody to gel with the new system.

“But it’s exciting going out there trying to figure it out, how to get together and win.”

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