Joel Embiid was in a contemplative mood following the Sixers’ 121-106 win on Monday. The Philadelphia 76ers star was explaining how he needed to keep pushing, mentally and physically, with 18 games left on the schedule.
Embiid is on pace to play in the most games he ever has over six crazy NBA seasons. He has started 52 contests this year which is just 12 off his career-best 2018-19 campaign. His commitment to healthier habits and better conditioning — kudos to trainer Drew Hanlen — has kept the big man on the court.
“Proud of the fact that I’m probably going to play more games than I have in the past,” Embiid said. “All the work that we put in, off the court, is starting to pay off. I’m just glad that I’m available and we’re winning.”
Part of Embiid’s motivation goes back to missing out on MVP last season. The 7-footer missed too many games for voters to justify picking him over Nikola Jokic. Fast forward to 2022 and those two men are once again locked in a two-man race for the award. When Embiid was asked if he was keeping tabs on Jokic — the Serbian sensation was coming off a 46-point triple-double — he coyly said no. Quickly, Embiid looked up and changed his answer.
“He’s an amazing player. He’s a monster,” Embiid said of Jokic. “I saw what he was able to do last night [March 6]. I was watching the game actually, I’m always watching, I’m watching every game but he’s a monster.
“What he’s able to do on a basketball floor, it’s crazy, really, so from big man to big man I’m happy that when you look at who’s dominating the league and who the best players are you got really all big men, whether it’s Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Jokic, KD’s [Kevin Durant] not a big but he’s 7-feet, you know … it’s also foreign guys, foreign guys are really taking over, Luka [Doncic], and it’s great for us.”
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Nikola Jokic Responds to Embiid Comparisons
Embiid and Jokic are not only fighting for the same trophy, but they also get compared to each other frequently. Both players tower over their peers on the court and can fill up the stat sheet in a hurry. They also carry the championship dreams of Philly and Denver on their broad shoulders.
Jokic was asked if he liked the comparison during a recent interview with Nuggets 360. His answer echoed Embiid’s comments about big men taking over.
“I like it because I think he’s a great player, but I don’t think that we have a similar style of basketball,” Jokic said. “I wish I could do the things that he does on the court. He’s amazing. I think he’s really aggressive, he’s playing on a really, really high level this season. He changed the game and I’m really glad that he’s a big man because — Shaq’s going to appreciate this — because I think the big man, you see Giannis, he won back-to-back MVPs, then I was MVP, and hopefully Embiid can be MVP one time, too.”
Embiid Nursing Sore Ankle, Getting Treatment
Embiid has nursed a myriad of physical ailments this season, including knee, rib, and ankle injuries. The latter stemmed from a freak play on December 15 when he rolled his ankle versus Miami. He decided not to sit out any games despite calling it “pretty painful” at the time.
After Monday’s game, Embiid admitted that he re-aggravated that ankle against Chicago. The injury still bothers him and he continues to get treatment for it.
“I feel great, my body feels great,” Embiid said. “I twisted my ankle a few times today but gotta keep getting treatment and lifting and getting stronger every day. But, at this point, it’s all about really building for the postseason and making sure that I’m healthy and all that stuff. Our goal is to win a championship.”
No little nick or bruise is going to get in the way of chasing a title. If Embiid needs to take a day off to rest, he will.
“If I don’t feel well physically, definitely going to take a game or a couple of games off just to make sure I’m right mentally and physically,” Embiid said. “This season I’m probably going to play the most games I’ve played in my career. It’s been going well so far, so I got to keep the same routine going, but it’s going well so far. I got to keep pushing.”