In a dismal three-plus-year stretch of futility, the 76ers can take major solace in this fact: They found a franchise cornerstone.
The Process is now.
Joel Embiid has proven that much and even more through the first 33 games in the Sixers’ 9-24 start. On Tuesday afternoon, Embiid was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Later that night, the 7-foot-2 center carried the Sixers to a thrilling 93-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Wells Fargo Center.
Embiid compiled 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. On the game-winning play, his screen freed Robert Covington for a basket with a two tenths of a second remaining. Through the night, Embiid pumped his fists, spurred the crowd on when necessary and reveled in the spotlight.
Despite missing two full seasons with a pair of surgeries, Embiid’s feet and ankles have clearly responded. Playing with the poise and passion of a 10-year veteran, the Sixers have a star.
And possibly an All-Star.
Considering Embiid’s importance to the franchise and his minute restriction, why would an All-Star Game push be so important?
“Because I think he deserves it,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “I think the health risk is becoming increasingly less, as I'm advised.”
Embiid played his 23rd NBA game Tuesday night since he has been resting on back-to-backs and other assorted games to stay fresh all season.
Embiid has reached at least 25 points seven times this season, while the remainder of the rookie class has just one. He’s the first rookie with at least seven 25-point games since Tyreke Evans accomplished the feat for the Sacramento Kings in 2009-10.
Imagine if Embiid was playing 35-to-40 minutes per game. Imagine the statistics. Imagine how the Sixers will improve as pieces continue to fall in around the big man in the next year or two.
It’s a pretty picture for sure.
If Embiid is indeed selected for the All-Star Game, the Sixers are fully behind him in every way.
“To be able to go into the locker room, and I’ve been to two of them, you see 24 NBA All-Stars and you see the interaction and the camaraderie,” Brown said. “That’s an experience you don’t get. For him to be part of that locker room and that type of accolade, I completely support.”
Embiid is the first Sixers rookie to score 23 or more points in four straight games since 1996-97 when Allen Iverson finished his season with nine in a row.
Iverson became an icon in the city and eventually a Hall of Famer.
Check out the crowd now and more and more Embiid jerseys are popping up. The fans are embracing this kid. Embiid is on his way to becoming a star.
“We are still learning,” Embiid said after the win. “We are going to go back and watch this game. I thought this game shouldn’t have been close. We have to do a better job of not letting the other team come back in the game, but it is a learning experience and the last two games we got wins.”
Embiid isn’t becoming cocky by any means. He wants to be great. He’s displaying that attitude on the court and the future suddenly looks so promising.