Sixers' Joel Embiid on Dario Saric: 'He's the rookie of the year'

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Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric dribbles around Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. The 76ers won 118-116.

 LOS ANGELES – 76ers rookie center Joel Embiid interrupted Dario Saric’s post-game interview with CSN Philly’s Molly Sullivan French to make a statement.

“He’s the rookie of the year,” Embiid said of his rookie teammate. “That’s the guy.”

Saric looked over at Embiid and smiled before continuing the interview. The power forward had just finished with a career-high 29 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and five turnovers in the Sixers' 118-116 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. It was the February Eastern Conference rookie of the month’s 16 consecutive game with 10 or more points.

However, Embiiid was heavily favored to win the award before a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his left knee ended his season only 31 games played. 

Saric has excelled during Embiid’s absence. As a result, there’s been an ongoing debate over if Embiid or Saric should win the award.  The center may have put that to rest Sunday night with his endorsement for Saric.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” coach Brett Brown said of Embiid’s comment. “I’ve heard Joel say that, not a lot, but he means it. I think it’s a reflection of Joel first. I think it’s an example that it’s a very close team and I think it confirms our belief that one of those two is going to end up with rookie of the year.”

Follow and contact 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter and on Instagram at PompeyOnSixers.