Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid politely shook off a statement claiming he was playing with more joy this year. Someone made the comment during ESPN’s broadcast, but it simply isn’t true.
The affable Cameroonian said he’s actually been smiling a lot less in 2021. He has his sights set on seriously straight-faced goals, like becoming the first center to win NBA MVP since 2000 and leading a championship parade down Broad Street for the first time since 1983. Some would say Embiid is more mature. He calls it focused.
“This year I still feel like, I don’t feel like I smile enough like I’ve done in the past,” Embiid told reporters on Wednesday night. “I’m just focused. I got one task. I want to dominate every single game and I want to win the game. That’s what I’ve been focused on this season. I don’t think I’ve been smiling as much. I think I’ve actually been smiling less than last year, and definitely less than previous years because I used to be all over the place with the crowd, enjoying, having fun.”
Joel Embiid on if he heard the "KD Sucks" chants from the Philly fans: "I don't care about any other guy or any other team." He's focused on his team and winning the whole thing. #Sixers #HereTheyCome
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) April 15, 2021
That’s not to say that the 7-footer isn’t having fun this year. Winning is fun after all. And that is what Embiid is into these days, fun outings where he absolutely pounds lesser big men into submission. For example, Nets center DeAndre Jordan who flailed more helplessly than a tube man at a car dealership.
Embiid went off for 39 points on Wednesday and got to the free-throw line 11 times. He also secured 13 rebounds and blocked two shots as he furthered his case for MVP despite sitting out 19 games.
“As far as MVP, I’ve been dominant all season. I know I’ve been dominant all season,” Embiid said. “We got the No. 1 seed. When I get the ball it’s either a foul or a bucket. Or I decide to miss a shot and take whatever the defensive gives me so I feel like I’m right there [for MVP]. I feel like that’s mine.”
His train of thought kept going … no forced smile needed.
“But that’s not what I’m focused on,” Embiid said. “I’m focused on winning every single game and getting to the playoffs healthy to try and win what matters the most and that’s the NBA championship.”
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 15, 2021
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Embiid Explains Relationship with Philly Fans
The All-Star big man almost cracked a smile when talking about his relationship with Philly fans. Embiid was asked why the Sixers play so much better at home and naturally, he brought up the sometimes fickle fans roaming the Wells Fargo Center. They bring 110% every night so you better bring the same kind of energy.
“When you play in Philly, they are going to push you,” Embiid said. “They are going to get on you. They going to boo you. You got to come out and give 110-percent. You play very hard and give them everything you got. That’s played a huge role down there with being home because you don’t want to get booed. You want to come out and dominate and enjoy the game. You want the fans to enjoy the game. You want to win the game.”
Joel Embiid is unstoppable: 37 points and 13 rebounds… in 3 quarters against the Nets. pic.twitter.com/qAUHllIefc
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 15, 2021
Lost Physicality in the Fourth Quarter
The Sixers had it on cruise control heading into the fourth quarter versus Brooklyn when Doc Rivers emptied his bench. The Nets did the same thing since they were facing a 22-point deficit at one point.
Unfortunately, it got a little too close for comfort and Embiid was asked to return along with the other Sixers starters. They ended up winning the game by six points — Sixers 123, Nets 117 — but they weren’t in sync like before.
“That fourth quarter, it was just weird, I would say,” Embiid said. “I felt like I sat too long and kind of lost my rhythm, so them fronting and trapping had nothing to do with me or our play in that stretch when I came back. We just didn’t have the same physicality that we had for the first three quarters.”
Embiid is averaging 29.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 blocks in 36 games while shooting 52% from the field. He’s also taking a staggering 11.6 free-throw attempts per game and shooting it 85.2% from the charity stripe.
Steve Nash and the Brooklyn Nets are just WRONG for leaving DeAndre Jordan on Island like that against Embiid! I mean damn send a double team or something because Embiid is just giving him that work! God Bless America!!!
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) April 15, 2021