Orlando Magic rookie center Mohamed Bamba has developed a close relationship with a player he met in his first NBA game.
The Magic opened their preseason with a 120-114 loss to the 76ers on Monday at the Wells Fargo Center, and it provided Bamba with a chance to reunite with Sixers all-star Joel Embiid.
Bamba, who starred at Westtown School before heading to Texas, spent considerable time with Embiid as the center was recovering from an orbital bone injury that forced him to miss the Sixers' final eight regular-season games and first two playoff contests.
"I hung out with him a lot before the playoffs as he was getting back," Bamba said after Monday morning's shootaround. "He is a really nice dude, and there is a lot to learn from him."
After being selected No. 6 overall in the draft following his freshman season, Bamba reunited with Embiid in the summer. Bamba said the two worked out together for about a week in Los Angeles.
"We worked out in the summer, and it was intense," Bamba said. "I got a first look at what it is like in the NBA, and from what I understand, it wasn't even a dose."
Bamba, who originally reached out to Embiid for guidance, said the workouts with the Sixers center, were eye-opening.
"He is 7-2 and can move like a ballerina, and it is pretty tough," Bamba said.
The actual game action was even more intense.
In Monday's game, Bamba didn't start so he wasn't paired with Embiid until late in the first quarter. The Sixers center attacked him in consecutive trips down the court and drew a foul the first time, while scoring on the second and again drawing a foul.
"He is really skinny, he can't guard me, he had like four fouls in eight minutes and he is lucky I didn't play more minutes or he would have fouled out in 10 minutes," Embiid said afterward. "He has a lot of potential and I am going to keep trying to help him become what he is supposed to be an I think he is going to be really good."
Bamba, who is known more for his defense, was encouraged about his defensive game, despite the quick fouls against Embiid.
"What I thought I did a pretty good job of was not biting on the shot fake," he said afterwards. "It just shows that there is so much room for improvement. A couple of months ago, I was jumping all over the place."
Embiid finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, 37 seconds. Bamba also had his moments with 12 points, including going 2 for 2 from three-point range in just under 17 minutes.
Steve Clifford, the Magic's first-year coach, has been impressed with what he has seen from the 7-foot, 225-pound Bamba.
"He is really smart. He has had a really good approach in practice," Clifford said after the shootaround. "I think he is picking things up quickly, and I think he can become a very, very good offensive and defensive player."
Bamba, who averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks at Texas, said it was odd that his first pro game was against a team that he is so familiar with. He said as a high school student, he attended several Sixers games.
"It is kind of funny how that works," he said. "I was telling one of my teammates, it was really weird walking in here [for the shootaround]. Just through the pre-draft process, watching playoff games and now a couple of months later, I am playing against the Sixers."