If the first two games are a preview, Joel Embiid is going to be a future star.
Probably an All-Star.
The No. 3 overall pick from Kansas made his NBA debut for the Sixers with 20 points and seven rebounds in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Embiid followed that up with 14 points in a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
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After two lost seasons, two foot surgeries and a large throng of fans wondering if the 7-foot-2 center would ever suit up for the Sixers, well, those concerns have been answered. There’s still a long way to go, especially on a 20-minute restriction per game, but the big man has displayed a wide variety of skills.
The fans at the Wells Fargo Center continue to chant “Trust the process!”
Sitting out two full seasons was difficult, but coming back to play in front of a rabid fan base is well worth the struggles.
“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” Embiid said after the opener against the Thunder. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”
Embiid has hit one 3-pointer in each of his first two games. He has shown low post moves, a consistent mid-range jump shot, defensive ability and so much more. While he wants to play more, he understands the long-term plan.
“I feel like I could have played more, but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys,” Embiid said. “If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”
Embiid was in foul trouble against Dwight Howard in a huge loss to the Hawks, but he still was a viable contributor in 15 minutes, 28 seconds.
There will surely be more to come.
“We all see different things every time he plays,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “To start the game with him trailing and hitting the 3-point shot, and in the second half, him pump-faking and taking one dribble and making a move a guard would make and getting to the rim. … I thought Jo, with the minutes that he played, clearly he helps us. We look forward to when we have more minutes available for him.”
Amazingly, Embiid never scored 20 points in any game while at Kansas. Sitting out two full NBA seasons and coming back to make this much of an immediate impact is, well, worth watching for this budding star.
Getting on the court is so much more rewarding than rehabbing all the time and hoping you might be able to return.
“You think about what you have gone through the last three years, having to get surgery, all the ups and downs,” Embiid said. “But I try to stay away from all that.”