DALLAS -- Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel are best friends. The kind of friends who are so close they can say things like this to one another without causing a stir:
“I’m going to cook your ass,” Embiid informed Noel.
Embiid and Noel will be opponents for the first time Saturday night when the Mavericks host the Sixers. They were teammates for over two years before Noel was traded to Dallas in February. Embiid relished in the highly competitive practices against Noel. He credits battling against Noel and Jahlil Okafor early in his career to making him better.
So when Embiid told Noel of his intentions for the game, Noel laughed and told Embiid, “We’ll see.”
“He knows what happened in those practices,” Embiid said at shootaround Saturday morning.
To get a reference point of how the two bigs are faring this season, Embiid enters the game averaging 20.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Noel is posting 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 while splitting his six games between the starting lineup and bench.
Embiid expects he will be double-teamed by the Mavericks and see a zone defense as well. If he eyes an opportunity to take on Noel at the basket, he’s got a plan in mind.
“Any time I get the matchup to go one-on-one against him," Embiid said, "I’m going to try to dunk on him.”
While Noel’s time with the Sixers was marked by his vocal displeasure with his role, he still remains tied to his first home. Embiid and Noel spent time together this offseason when Noel made trips back to Philadelphia. Noel also had dinner with his former teammates, including Ben Simmons and Richaun Holmes, the night before the game in Dallas.
“I love the city, love the fans and the people there,” Noel said. “Regardless of what I went through, it was a great experience. I grew as a man, a young man and a person.”
Embiid and Noel will add an extra punch to Saturday’s game. Expect them to push one another to play at a high level with animated banter along the way. As for all that trash talking, it will be in good nature.
“It doesn’t matter if he got traded,” Embiid said. “We’re still great friends.”
JJ Redick is questionable because of lower back tightness. If he cannot play, Brett Brown will look to Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Nik Stauskas to fill the void. T.J. McConnell and Simmons could receive additional minutes as well … Okafor remained at the team hotel during shootaround with an upper respiratory infection. He is officially out for the game.