Joel Embiid

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Fun Embiid is the only Embiid

Dave Uram
February 25, 2020 - 11:28 am

Like it or not, the Joel Embiid you’ve watched the last two weeks is the guy the Sixers need in order to have any chance at a deep playoff run.

That guy makes poses after dunks, puts his hand to his ear following big baskets and shares exactly what’s on his mind, especially when the red light on the camera is lit.

Related: The Flyers are the best team in Philly

Minus a dud on the road against the Bucks, Embiid has stepped up his game in four of the last five, with the latest being a ridiculously dominating 49 points (career-high) against the inferior Hawks, on 17-of-24 from the floor and 14-of-15 from the foul line. Since ditching the left hand splint, Embiid has been money from the charity stripe.

“Since the Clippers game, I’ve had that mindset of just being aggressive, just trying to dominate, offensively and defensively,” Embiid said.

In their 129-112 victory over Atlanta, the big guy did a lot of celebrating, muscle flexing and some dancing.

“Obviously tonight was just one of those nights where I was having fun like the old days. Just having fun with the crowd.”

He even appeared to flip off Kevin Huerter after the Hawks wing stripped Embiid as he was running out the clock with the game essentially over. While Embiid apologized for his gesture during his NBC Sports Philadelphia on-court interview, in no way was he apologetic for exuberant displays of fun.

And you know what? That’s just fine.

Embiid plays his best when he’s, as he puts it, doing and saying whatever he wants. Since chucking up 10 three’s on February 6th at Milwaukee, there has only been one game out of six where he attempted more than three long balls. Recently, most of his offensive work has been in the post, where he thrives best and is most comfortable. He’s handling double teams better and getting to the free throw line at a higher rate.

He’s also speaking his mind. For as annoyed as you might’ve gotten at the “best player in the world” comment from last week, Embiid clarified Monday night that it was taken out of context, and he actually he meant that he belongs in the conversation as one of the best on the planet, and didn’t directly declare himself the elite of the elite.

“What I said was that All-Star Game fourth quarter I’m out there with some of the guys that I consider the best players in the world, and I’m out there just dominating,” Embiid said. “Just being unstoppable. Just doing whatever I want, especially in the post. So, to me I just felt like that was a chance for me to prove that I deserve being in that conversation of being the best player in the world, so next time do a better job (reporting on that comment).”

That being said, if you think he doesn’t want to be better than Giannis, LeBron, Kawhi and AD, you’re kidding yourself.

Is he? No.

Does he want to be? He should be.

Can he be? Absolutely.

The only way to do that is bring the attitude to the floor and basketball gym that best suits him. That attitude is smiling, trash talking and leading by example—which in his case is dominate the opponent.

The key is consistency, especially on the road. Oh hey, look at that—within the next week, the Sixers travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers and Lakers.

It’s time to put that attitude to the ultimate test.

“Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be like (smiling) this all the time. I think I’m finding that balance of sometimes having fun smiling and sometimes just being serious and just doing my job. And, I can do my job smiling and I can do my job being serious.”