LOS ANGELES – Joel Embiid’s four days at the NBA All-Star Weekend were a success.
The 76ers center learned from some of the league’s other elite players, was a hit with the global media, and showed why he’s arguably the best center in the game.
Embiid had 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks for Team Stephen, which lost, 148-145, to Team LeBron on Sunday in the NBA All-Star Game at the Staples Center. The teams were named after Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, the top vote-getters in the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively. Players on the winning team received $100,000 each.The losers received $25,000 each.
James was named the game’s MVP after finishing with 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and one steal.
But Embiid said learning how to be a pro was the biggest thing he got out this experience. He received that from being around the other all-stars, seeing how they act and the way they play.
“During the whole season, I kind of thought that I was a Top-5, Top-10 player in the league,” he said. “Coming in here before the game, I wanted confirmation of it. And I felt like I can hang with them. But I had a lot of fun.”
However, what was his favorite memory from the game?
“Blocking [Russell] Westbrook’s shot. I’m just kidding,” Embiid said with a laugh in reference to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard he’s previously exchanged words with.
“But just being introduced as an all-star starter, my heart was beating really fast,” he added. “I was kind of shaking a little bit, too. But that’s probably my best memory.”
Embiid had a great start, scoring the game’s first five points.
The Sixers standout scored on a dunk while being fouled by Anthony Davis. He made the foul shot to give Team Stephen a 3-0 advantage. Then Embiid made a jumper on his second shot attempt to give his squad a 5-0 cushion with 10 minutes, 44 seconds left in the quarter.
He ended up with five points on 2-for-3 shooting and two rebounds before leaving the game with 6:41 left in the quarter.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) February 19, 2018
Embiid came back with 8:09 left in the half. He scored his third basket on a running layup with 5:57 before intermission. Then he added a three-pointer with 4:00 left in the half to give Team Stephen a 62-58 advantage.
He had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting (1 of 2 on three-pointers) to go with six rebounds, one steal, and one block in 10:14 of action in the first half. he added five points and a rebound in the third quarter before exiting with 6:04 left in the period. He returned with 4:24 remaining in the game.
The 7-foot-2, 280-pounder came up with a key block on Paul George’s shot with the game tied at 144 and 45.3 seconds left. DeMar DeRozan made one of two foul shots to give Team Stephen a 145-144 lead 5.1 seconds later.
James and Russell Westbrook responded with baskets to give Team LeBron a three-point cushion with 10.7 seconds left. Team Stephen failed to get off a shot in the closing seconds.
This game came one day after Embiid advanced to the semifinals of the Skills Competition. He also participated in the Rising Stars game on Friday night. He played just 8:41, scoring five points as the World team easily defeated the U.S. team, 155-124.
“It feels great to be around all these guys,” Embiid said. “This is my first and I’m a starter [in the All-Star Game]. … It’s been an amazing experience.”
As expected, his trash-talking was a hot topic.
He said his trolling of Minnesota Timberwolves all-star Karl-Anthony “Kat” Towns on Dec. 13 was his best trash-talking of the season.
Back then, Embiid posted a grainy photo on Instagram of himself driving in for an easy basket during the Dec. 12 victory over the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. Towns and Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler, another all-star, stood helplessly in the background as Embiid Euro-stepped. The caption read, “Euro stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night” #The Process
Embiid and Towns are good friends. However, the Sixer acknowledges that sometimes his competitive side comes out.
He also wanted to make it clear that his trashing-talking and trolling of opponents shouldn’t be seen as disrespecting them.
“This game is about being competitive and having fun,” Embiid said. “When I get on the court, I want to win. Also, I want to have fun. Trash-talking is a way for me to do that. … At the end of the day, I’m sure they know I’m not disrespecting anybody.”
His play this season hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He can hit the three. He can dribble. He developed his skills over time, and he wants it,” said Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, a nine-time all-star and former league MVP who played for Team LeBron.
“He’s a great player,” Durant added. “He’s definitely a guy you respect and is going to take over this league once I’m done.”
LeBron to Philly?
Sixers point guard Ben Simmons had social media buzzing with speculation following his Sunday morning Instagram post. The post was a picture of him along with Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, Washington Wizards all-star point guard John Wall, and James. All four players are represented by Klutch Sports. The caption read, “June 30th Midnight.” There were also eyes and a peace sign followed by #Klutch. James is expected to become an unrestricted three agent on July 1.
It appears that Simmons was hinting that James will pursue free agency this summer. There has been some speculation that the Sixers are a preferred destination for the 14-time all-star and four-time MVP. This post only heightened that speculation, regardless of whether Simmons meant it that way or not.