LeBron James wrapped up his 45th career triple-double with an imposing 26-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound performance in a 112-108 victory over the 76ers.
The Cavaliers’ best player — and the top player in the world — celebrated the victory, but came away gushing about a player on the opposite side of the court.
Joel Embiid, who has finally suited up after two lost seasons to injury, had 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots for the young Sixers.
Sixers fans continue to chant “Trust the process!” and James can see why the rabid fan base has fallen in love with the 7-foot-2 budding superstar.
“He's a load, his ability to not only score in the post but to shoot the ball keeps the defense off balance,” James said. “You just have to continue to work the defense, work your habits and work your game plan more than anything.”
James enjoys mentoring the next generation of great players and he’s excited about Embiid’s future in Philadelphia.
“He's a good young kid,” James said. “Embiid has a bright future and coach [Brett] Brown — I think they did a good job of just bringing him along slow, after the injuries he's had. You don’t want to have any setbacks, and right now, he's not having any setbacks. I think they've done a great job with their medical team and coach Brown of just bringing him slowly and he's going to be really good. I mean, he's already good, but he's going to be really, really good. As the games go on, you get more and more games, you get more of a feel for the games. He'll be a really good player in the league.”
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is a great player like James. In fact, Irving won the game with 39 points, including 19 in a sizzling fourth quarter.
Nothing came easy for Irving when Embiid was patrolling the paint.
“Me and Joel had a good moment,” Irving said. “He got a piece of one of the shots, where I threw it up. He said he got a piece of it, and I said 'I know.' But I put a lot of stank on it, a lot of spin on it. He's a big body down there. It's always good to go against a shot-blocker like that.”
The 20-point game was Embiid’s sixth of the season, which leads all Philadelphia players. Considering the big man has had a number of games off for mandated rest, that’s saying something.
Embiid won’t play in the second part of a back-to-back in Toronto. There’s a long future ahead so a regular season game here and there this season won’t affect what happens down the road.
For now, the fans can embrace Embiid. They have. They will.
“There is a confidence that I love because it's also mirrored by talent,” Brown said. “There's a toughness that this city demands — it's Philadelphia — that I just think this city is going to wrap their arms around him the more he plays. He's still like a gangling 20-something-year-old to me. That doesn't cloud his mojo, his swagger, his attitude and I love it. I love it. It's what our program needs.”