Just a few years ago, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were University of Kansas teammates. After outstanding freshman seasons, they opted to enter the 2014 NBA draft. Wiggins was taken first overall by Cleveland, making his way to Minnesota in the Kevin Love deal. Embiid was taken third by Philadelphia.
That's where the similarities end. Wiggins was rookie of the year, and he has two-plus seasons of NBA experience under his belt. Embiid spent the past two seasons recovering from surgeries on his foot and waiting to get on the court.
On Thursday, Wiggins and Embiid were on the same court together for the first time since college when the Wolves played host to Philadelphia. Wiggins was thrilled for his former teammate.
"It's been a long process for him," Wiggins said. "At first he had injuries. But he's back now, he's healthy and he's playing great basketball. I'm happy to see it, personally."
It's been a measured comeback. Embiid is on a minutes limit and doesn't play on both ends of back-to-back games. But when he does play he has fared well, averaging 18 points and 7.3 rebounds. After his long wait, he is a leading contender for rookie of the year.
But while Wiggins has had two years to grow, Embiid is just starting the trip. And, said 76ers coach Brett Brown, "When we watch him [Thursday], at times you'll be sort of awe-struck that a man his size [7-0, 275 pounds] can do the things we're seeing. And at other times the game is moving at a pace and speed he's not used to."
The two have kept in contact over the past couple years. "That's my guy, so yeah," Embiid said. "He was rookie of the year. And he's been playing really well. The other day he had 47. So I'm really happy for him."
Said Wiggins: "He waited so long to be able to play. And now he's dominating. He's playing good. You can see him getting better every day. The sky is the limit for him."
Another pair of former teammates faced off Thursday. Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio and 76ers guard Sergio Rodriguez were teammates on the Spanish team at the Rio Olympics. Rubio was a fan of Rodriguez — who is four years older — as a youngster, and he's happy Rodriguez has found his way back to the NBA.
"He's a great player who came into this league but couldn't find his spot," Rubio said. "But he went back to Europe and he was the man over there. Now he comes back with more confidence."
A first-round draft pick in 2006, Rodriguez played for three teams in four years. He went back to Europe and helped lead Real Madrid to two EuroLeague titles, winning the MVP once. He was signed by the 76ers this year and is averaging 8.4 points and 7.5 assists as a starter.
"He's doing a heck of a job in Philly," Rubio said. "He's a great player, a great guy."
• Coach Tom Thibodeau said forward Adreian Payne, who has played well in consecutive games off the bench, might be in line for more playing time down the road.
"He's done a good job," Thibodeau said. "He's been ready. There is a physical presence. That's sort of the way this thing works." Payne, who scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting in 20 minutes in the two games before Thursday, had eight points in 13 minutes vs. the 76ers.
• Wolves reserves Shabazz Muhammad (knee) and Brandon Rush (big toe) sat out.