Leading up to the start of the NBA season, Joel Embiid made some waves by joining the international free-agent market. The Philadelphia 76ers star became a citizen of both France and the USA this summer leading to speculation of which country he might represent at the international level. Rudy Gobert recently fanned these flames after being asked about the possibility of joining forces on the French national team. Although, the Timberwolves big man raised some eyebrows by not seeming to be 100% on board with Embiid joining the team.
When asked by Joe Vardon of the Athletic about Embiid joining him on the France roster, Gobert put it, “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…It has to come from him. You are either all in, or you’re not.”
Gobert’s Previous Thought’s on Embiid
The prospect of Embiid joining France is not one that is new. It was announced that he officially became a French citizen in July. Gobert was asked about it in an interview with BasketNews in August where he seemed more open to the idea. As he put it at this time, “There’s no player in the world like Joel Embiid. So yes, I would like to see him one day with the jersey of the French team. It is up to the coach to make this decision.”
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year also acknowledged how impressive a trio of himself, Embiid, and prized prospect Victor Wembanyama could be. When asked how teams could stop the three seven-footers Gobert replied, “They can’t. But the international game is not about getting the best players on paper,” per Joe Vardon of the Athletic.
For what it is worth the coach of the French national team, Vincent Collett, has already voiced his desire for Embiid to join the squad. As he put it, “Now he has both nationalities, and he has to choose one basketball nationality, which is not the same. So, that is a choice. Nobody can do anything to change it…I know he met some of our players to discuss. I think he should play with us. But we will see. We will respect his decision whatever it is,” per the Associated Press.
Embiid’s Thoughts on International Play
On the other side of things, Embiid has not been very open about what his plans are for international play. When asked by the media about his plans earlier this year he simply replied, “I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” per the Associated Press. The decision between the USA and France will be a difficult one as both teams are among the top international teams in the world.
As things currently stand, Embiid will remain focused on achieving his goals with the Sixers. It also should be noted that the reigning MVP runner-up has battled injury issues throughout his career so fans may not be itching at the idea of him putting further strain on his body. Embiid clearly has his priorities set and is aware of this as well.
The big man is fluent in French and will have some tough decisions to make as international play comes closer. The 2024 Olympics would likely be the next target date for Embiid to make a decision but it is very possible he sits this even out. There are a number of reasons outside of basketball that could have motivated him to make this citizenship change as well. For now, he will have his sights set on helping the Sixers contend for the title, but his welcome to the France team may not be as warm as most would expect it to be.