The Philadelphia 76ers have been slower out of the gate than expected — a lot of fans expected a leap forward from the Sixers, for them to be at the top (with Boston, also a little slow to start). Instead, without the shooting of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, plus with Markelle Fultz starting and trying to find a role, the Sixers have been just okay — 7-5 by record, but their -0.6 net rating is that of a .500 team.
Joel Embiid has been the exception — he has been a force of nature. Embiid is averaging 27.7 points and 12.4 rebounds a game, is a beast around the rim (40 percent of his shots come there and he’s shooting 69 percent), he’s dishing out assists on 19 percent of his possessions used, and the Sixers have been 14.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court (most of that coming on the offensive end, although their defense is elite when he plays). If one were to put together an early season MVP watch list, Embiid’s name should be on it. He has carried the Sixers early while the perimeter players clank shots off the rim.
This is just how Embiid wants it — he wants to dominate. His trash talking is just part of that, as he told Michael Lee of The Athletic.
“I want to dominate,” Embiid told The Athletic recently, when asked why his colorful, playful trash talk has become an essential part of his game…
“It’s fun. One thing when I started playing in the league, I saw that a lot of guys are friendly. It’s OK to be friendly, especially off the court. But on the court, I want to dominate,” Embiid continued. “I don’t really care about the friendships on the court. I got my friends. I got my family, which I’m close to. I got a couple of friends that I’m always around. I don’t do anything. I don’t need to hang out with a lot of people.
“So me always talking trash … nowadays the league is kind of soft. I’m trying to dominate and if you dominate, you’re going to be hated because you’re going to talk so much stuff.”
Love him or hate him — most people are in the former camp right now, but that pendulum will swing, fame is fickle like that — Embiid makes the game more entertaining. Finally healthy on the court he can do it all there. He can go out and outscore Andre Drummond 32-0 in a half.
But it’s the trash talking after that is the kind of personality the league could use more of.
Tell me you don’t want Embiid to be one of the two All-Star Game captains, picking players on live TV. This guy is just fun.
We’re just waiting for the rest of the Sixers to catch up to him.