Joel Embiid has his swagger back

Dave Uram
February 12, 2020 - 11:47 am

Shhhhhh, don’t tell anybody, but I think Joel Embiid is becoming his old, smiling self—fun, entertaining, and unwilling to hold back his thoughts.

“I’m back to doing whatever I want and saying whatever I want,” Embiid said after the 76ers 110-103 win over the Clippers at Wells Fargo Center. “That’s how I used to be and I was dominating that way. This year, I made a decision to change, and I guess it hasn’t worked out. It comes with the good and bad, so if it helps us win and if it helps me help the team in a better way to win games, then I’m going to be that guy.”

Related: Joel Embiid: 'I love my city'

The good is an aggressive 26 point, nine rebound performance. The bad is potentially insulting the extremely loyal and passionate fan base, which he at least annoyed somewhat this week shushes and social media trolling.

“They’ve been going at me. I went back at them. We all human beings. If I can take it then everybody else can take it to. So, we move on. We learn from it. We move on. I got to do a better job. They got to do a better job. I understand where they come from, but then again, if you dish it, you got to be able to take it back.”

I’m not necessarily sure how Philadelphia sports fans have to “do a better job.” That’s head scratching and unfortunately wasn’t followed up on Tuesday night. But, like great Philadelphia athletes do, they respond to criticism by playing well. It’s the ultimate sign that the message was heard and the fans frustration didn’t go through one ear and out the other.

Embiid proved Tuesday that he’s built for this tough town, turning what were some apparent boos during player introductions into cheers on the Sixers first possession. He made a basket in the act of getting fouled, then turned to the crowd with a giant smile and motioned them to make noise—the exact opposite of a shush.

All season long it appeared Embiid was trying to be someone he’s not, but in actuality—as noted before by this writer—he just needed to be himself. Maybe that personality is coming back. That’s the Embiid Philadelphia fell in love with. That’s the Embiid Philadelphia should want. That’s the Embiid the Sixers will need to dig themselves out of the fifth seed and into a deep postseason run.

“If you going to boo, and someone is going to shush you, you got to be OK with it,” Embiid said. “It’s all love. I understand where they’re coming from, but I do know that they got my back…I’m still here. This is still my city. This is still our city. We going to keep pushing and try to win that championship.”