How far have the Philadelphia 76ers come? It’s Tuesday and I’m about to talk about their 107-86 win over the Utah Jazz on a Monday night. There was a time when the Sixers winning a game might actually lead the show because it was about as frequent as Haley’s comet. Now they’re two games over .500 and the fact that they beat the Jazz by 21 isn’t even the point of the take. The point of the take, because it’s the point of every take about Philadelphia and should be the point of everything, is Joel Embiid.
Sure, Ben Simmons had another monster game with a career-high 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 assists. But this isn’t about Ben Simmons. This is about Joel Embiid. And it’s not even about his 15 points, 11 boards, and 3 dimes.
Nor is it about the fact that he played through a sore knee that caused him to miss the morning shoot around – although, I’ll be real, that had me worried. Anytime Embiid is in pain, I’m in pain, because it means we might not get to see him play that night. And there’s nothing more devastating than that.
But he played last night. He muscled through it. Although he admitted afterwards “The whole game I thought I was kind of flat. I was kind of going through the motions. I needed that, getting the crowd going.”
What was “that,” you ask? Well, “that” was this moment with Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell who drove the lane:
If you haven’t seen it, Embiid swats Mitchell’s shot and then turns to jaw at him. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the phrase that pays was “Get that bleep out of here.” Mitchell jumps up, lunges at Embiid, gives him a shove, and Embiid hits the deck.
The key detail here is that Mitchell is 6’3 and Embiid is 7 feet tall, but Embiid went down in a hurry. Sure there’s the possibility that Mitchell got under him and got leverage. Or that he surprised Embiid. But according to Embiid, it was something else.
“I blocked his shot and I said something to him, and then he just got up and kind of fake shoved me and I flopped. Then he got a technical for it.”
Love it. I’m not sure what I love more – the rejection, the fact that he talked junk about it, the fact that he baited Mitchell into running at him, the fact that he hit the deck to draw the technical, the fact that Embiid gestured for the tech himself while he was on the ground, or the fact that he then started pumping up the crowd when he got to his feet, or the fact that he admitted he flopped?
It’s one giant photo finish for first place and there’s no way of figuring out who won because there was just too much awesome crammed into that one play. And the “Trust the Process” and “MVP” chants afterwards were the cherry on the cake.
Embiid is not only an incredible player, he’s an incredible troll. Just ask Hassan Whiteside. Or Andre Drummond. Or any of the Clippers bigs. Or pretty much anyone who steps on the floor with him. And he hooked Mitchell big time last night. And then, in true Embiid style, he left the game to a standing ovation and then hugged it out with Mitchell after the game. Because how can you not love the big guy?
Love the game, love the attitude, love his tweets, love everything about him. As good as the Eagles are, and they’re really, really good, Embiid is the best thing to happen to Philly in a long, long time. Probably ever. Again, I couldn’t love this guy any more if he were my own son. And I wish he were.