It’s been a long few seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers.
With the mantra of “Trust the Process” ringing through the City of Brotherly Love, fans hunkered down for season after season of uncompetitive basketball hoping that the fruits of their suffering would eventually form of a championship-calibre core of players. One of the most important pieces of this ongoing puzzle is Joel Embiid — the seven-foot-tall Cameroonian center who has embraced the “Trust the Process” moniker more than any player in Philadelphia.
The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid suffered through injuries that forced him to miss the first two seasons of his NBA career in their entirety. When he finally was able to suit up last season, he shined — averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks over 31 games before yet another injury sent him to the bench for the year.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Sixers are ready to push their chips to the center of the table and see if their bet pays off, trading up to snag Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and paying veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick $US9 million on a one-year deal to bring him to Philadelphia. The team also extended Embiid with a deal worth $US147 million that will keep him in the city through the 2022-23 season.
With all the ingredients in place, it was time to see if The Process could potentially come to fruition, and on Wednesday night, Sixers fans got a huge sign towards the affirmative.
Making his preseason debut, Embiid once again proved himself a force, putting up 22 points in just 15 minutes of game time against the Nets. He also made numerous highlight-reel worthy plays that quickly sent Philadelphia Twitter into a fervor.
Embiid opened the scoring for the Sixers with a jumper from the elbow that looked smooth and reliable. While not the most gut-busting play you’ll see, it served as a nice appetizer for what was to come.
In the second quarter, Embiid put on display a new, potentially devastating part of his arsenal, working the baseline before stepping back with a Dirk-esque kick to create space before nailing another short jumper.
On another play, he worked his defender to draw a fould before going high off the glass for another bucket — and showed a bit of outward confidence after the play that will be welcome when he gets back to Philadelphia.
Embiid also gave fans a preview of his deep range, hitting an after-the-whistle shot from the center-court logo. While the shot didn’t count, knowing that Embiid has the potential to hit this Curry-approved trey makes him an even more nightmarish matchup for opposing defences.
He showed off his passing ability as a big man, finding Ben Simmons for an easy bucket.
And in arguably the most exciting development of the night, Embiid showed off his ability to serve as a game-changing defensive presence for the Sixers, working from behind the play to absolutely stuff Allen Crabbe.
While it was only 15 minutes in one preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets, Embiid’s play on Wednesday will go a long way in assuring Sixers fans that he could continue to develop into one of the best players in the league. And with an up-and-coming core that includes some of the brightest young talents in the Eastern Conference, there’s no reason that the Sixers couldn’t make a playoff push this year if Embiid can stay healthy.
Joel Embiid is BACK.
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