Richaun Holmes will tell you that he always plays with a chip on his shoulder.
"I've been overlooked for so long that it's always been that," the 76ers center said. "There's always been somebody that's bigger, somebody that's supposedly better. It's always been that way.
"You know, you just put your head down and keep on playing and prove them wrong."
A 2015 second-round pick out of Bowling Green, Holmes is proving that he's a legitimate NBA player. So much so that a case can be made for him to be the Sixers starter for the remainder of the season.
Joel Embiid is sidelined with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Jahlil Okafor was unable to play in the second half of Sunday's 105-99 victory over the Boston Celtics because of right knee soreness. Okafor does not match up well against mobile centers who can step out and make shots on the perimeter even when he's healthy.
Holmes doesn't have a problem in that area in addition to protecting the rim. Offensively, the second-year player is a dunking machine with the ability to stretch defenses with his three-point shooting. Sixers coach Brett Brown calls the 23-year-old a "modern-day player."
Holmes made 2 of 3 three-pointers while scoring a career-high 24 points to go with nine rebounds in a start against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 11. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, and four blocks in a reserve role on Sunday.
He's averaging 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds and shooting a team-leading 56.7 percent from the field in 44 games. Holmes has started five games.
"I'm always confident no matter how much time I get," Holmes said. "So just the more time on the floor, the more things I get to showcase and I get to help the team win."
As a result, Holmes is a player Brown knows he can depend on. His game is almost derived exclusively out of energy.
The Sixers know that he's going to run hard up and down the floor. They know that he's going to screen-and-roll to the basket.
"You can count on him," Brown said. "Those effort, energy sort of type things are the reliable part of his game. The other things [three-point shooting, making open 18-footers] at times are outliers and really tip him over the top when he starts doing those other things."
Still a work in progress
Brown won't get ahead of himself. His team is playing at a high level. The Sixers take impressive victories over the Dallas Mavericks and Boston into Monday night's game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center.
However, he knows his team is far behind Boston (44-26). The Celtics have an established core and are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
"I think that's a little too arrogant for me to go there," Brown said of comparisons to Boston. "We're unknown. Nobody knows about Ben Simmons. We think we know about Joel [Embiid]. We're learning about Dario [Saric]. They've done it. It's completely not fair for me to say that."
Embiid returns from California
Embiid was back with the Sixers for Sunday's game. The center spent time last week visiting doctors in California, seeking opinions on the torn meniscus in his left knee.