Basketball may have been invented in the United States – Dr. James Naismith; in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891 – but it’s a game worshipped and adored all over the globe. And foreign players are dominating the way it’s played.
Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid remains the front-runner to win this year’s Maurice Podoloff Trophy, given to the league’s Most Valuable Player, as Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo charge at his heels. If Embiid – or any of those two other men win – it will mark the fourth straight MVP honor for a foreign-born player.
Embiid took a moment to express how proud he was to be a part of the foreign invasion prior to tip-off against Toronto on Sunday. Raptors forward Pascal Siakam would be the enemy that night, but the Sixers’ big man was super appreciative to see his Cameroonian compatriot succeed. Awards and accolades aren’t just for Americans anymore.
“I’m just happy that whether it’s guys like me, Pascal, or whatever – just taking advantage of this opportunity, and knowing that you guys have always had everything, and we didn’t,” Embiid told reporters. “So, to me, it’s good to see when guys – you know, foreign guys – coming in here and showing them that basketball is bigger in America but you know it doesn’t have to be an American basketball player who’s the best. So it’s good.”
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Doc Rivers Scouts Raptors Pre-Game
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers held his normal pre-game media availability roughly 90 minutes prior to tip-off on Sunday. He used the opportunity to glowingly flatter the Raptors, comparing them favorably to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Every player on those two teams is built in the same mold, ranging between 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-10 with off-the-charts athleticism. For Toronto, it was a specific blueprint followed by Masai Ujiri.
“Man, they are a tough matchup, just because of the way they play,” Rivers told reporters. “They play so different than everybody else, you know Masai went out and got everyone he could find from 6-7 to 6-10. They can dribble, pass and shoot.
And so they are one of the few teams – can’t even think of another club, Clippers when everybody is healthy – they’re the only other team that can really just do that. Just play that style, switch everything, each guy can attack. They search for matchups and they’re going to find one every night, and you know that and you have to adjust to that.”
Sixers-Raptors Injury Report
Embiid was listed questionable with back soreness on the final injury report. He has played twice in three nights and the Sixers have a back-to-back against Miami coming up. Tonight seems like a perfectly timed rest day, although Rivers wouldn’t officially rule him out. Embiid was the only player in danger of missing the game.
Meanwhile, the Raptors ruled three players out versus Philadelphia: guard Fred VanVleet (knee), guard Malachi Flynn (hamstring), forward OG Anunoby (finger). Tip-off was slated for 8:30 p.m. on March 20 at Wells Fargo Center.