Dwight Howard has seen and done it all in his 17 NBA seasons. He’s an eight-time All-Star and former No.1 overall pick. He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and slam dunk champion. Howard also won a championship ring last year with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But there’s one thing he has never experienced before, crazy Philadelphia 76ers fans. He’s happy to be on the right side of their hilarious (sometimes vicious) insults. Howard took a minute after Friday’s shootaround to comment on the hometown crowd. Remember, this marks the first time in more than a year since the Sixers have full capacity at the Wells Fargo Center. The veteran center felt he needed to send a direct message to Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young on what to expect.
“He don’t want no smoke with these ones,” Howard told reporters. “Not no Philly fans! We for real about our team over here. We for real. Nah, I love it. I think the back-and-forth with the fans, having a good time, it’s entertainment. This is why the fans are back. They want to see a good show. Him playing, him going at the crowd, but now we got the Philly crowd. It’s gonna be great. I’m looking forward to it.”
Young is no stranger to back-and-forth with fans after hearing the boos on a nightly basis from New York Knicks fans in the first round. He seemed to thrive when the rowdies at Madison Square Garden put the target on his back and threw it back at them with a ceremonial bow after dropping 36 points in Game 5. The only thing that upset him was the “spitting incident.” Other than that, bring it on.
“None of it ever really bothers me until you get to the point of spitting on people,” Young told The Big Tigger Morning Show on V-103. “Besides that, words are words. Obviously, fans are gonna cheer for their team and do whatever they can to get into the opposing team’s head. When fans are chanting F-you or certain things, for me it’s a sign of respect. They’re not doing that for everybody.”
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Joel Embiid Starting Game 1 vs. Atlanta
Joel Embiid will be back in the starting five for the Sixers for Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks. The All-Star big man had been dealing with a “small meniscus tear” in his knee after going down in the first round.
Embiid is averaging 24.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists in four playoff games while shooting 63.5% from the field. He had been a game-time decision, according to Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.
“He looked good yesterday. He ran [at practice],” Rivers told reporters prior to Game 1. “But, again, we haven’t done a lot so we’re going to wait and he’s going to do all the stuff today and then we’ll decide.”
Embiid didn’t participate in any live drills or absorb any contact. It’s possible the big man will be on a minute restriction.
“I think conditioning has played a major factor in all this,” Rivers said. “Joel, thank God, came into camp in great shape. I think that’s what has allowed him to return, whereas other guys may not have.”
Hawks Coach Evaluates Ben Simmons
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan didn’t know if he would be facing Embiid in Game 1 so he turned his attention to stopping Ben Simmons. The 6-foot-11 point guard is a matchup nightmare due to his size and athleticism, plus he’s arguably the best defender in the entire NBA. McMillan called him a disruptive force on both ends of the floor.
“He can play five positions and he does play five positions,” McMillan told reporters. “In their last game against Washington, he was guarding the center. He’s a really good defender. He’s big, he’s fast and athletic. They will move him around and put him in different positions so he can cover the ball or switch onto the ball. He’s a guy that can disrupt your offense with them putting him on your best player.”