Body language can sometimes tell the story when a player is struggling. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wore a pained expression and slumped his shoulders a lot during the first month of the season.
Statistically, the Big Fella was dominating but not mentally. Now he has put everything together and returned to MVP form. Embiid dropped 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds on Friday night against Milwaukee in a game where he focused less on scoring. He had 8 assists, including a sneaky dart to a cutting Shake Milton for an easy dunk with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter. That was the dagger the Sixers needed to kill off the Bucks.
“That’s how we should be playing. I should be more aggressive,” Embiid said. “I want the ball and not to score, to make sure I get everybody involved, my teammates. I believe that when I have the ball there’s so much attention created and I can make my teammates’ lives easier. It’s been like that for the past few games. It doesn’t matter when they come back. We just have to keep going.”
So, what changed between October and November?
“Nothing, it’s been the same,” Embiid said. “I started off the season I was fine, I just didn’t make shots. Going back to the Milwaukee game [October 20], I shot 6-of-21 from the field, I just wasn’t making shots. Obviously, just being more aggressive, wanting it more, wanting the ball and being aggressive about it, and trying to be a monster.”
Shake Milton Stopped ‘Pissing Off’ Embiid
The Sixers have won three straight games, and four out of their last five. The smiles are back. The laughter is audible. The energy is contagious. After beating Milwaukee 110-102, Embiid was cracking jokes and showering his teammates with love — some of that love was cloaked in big brother humor. For example, Embiid mentioned the time he literally threatened to slap Milton in the face when they were playing in the Orlando bubble.
“Probably my fondest memory of him is that time I told him I was going to slap him in the bubble so he’s come a long way,” Embiid told reporters. “He used to piss me off and now he doesn’t anymore.”
Embiid is clearly having fun again which is a good thing. His tone changed from joking to serious when discussing how much his bond has grown with the older “Trust the Process” guys. That inclues Milton, along with Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle.
“We all have a great relationship and those are my guys,” Embiid said. “We’ve been through so much — the drama, everything we had to deal with, it’s crazy to even think about it so I’m just happy I’m able to share these opportunities with them.”
De’Anthony Melton’s Biggest Fan Since Memphis
Another guy that Embiid called out by name was De’Anthony Melton. He remembered the former Memphis Grizzlies star play like a monster last season in a game against Milwaukee. That performance — 24 points, 6-of-9 from deep, plus four quarters of lock-down defense — sealed Embiid’s membership into the De’Anthony Melton Fan Club.
“De’Anthony, I’ve been a big fan since his Memphis days,” Embiid said. “When we got him I asked him, ‘What is your best game as a Grizzlie?’ He didn’t even know. I knew his best game, it was actually against Milwaukee. That’s how much basketball I watch. I happen to be watching that game against Milwaukee and he was just killing it and he was a monster that game.”
Melton had 10 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds for the Sixers versus Milwaukee on Friday night. He buried 2 big-time triples, including a clutch 24-footer with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter to help ice the game.