LOS ANGELES — Could the Sixers' first matchup against Lonzo Ball and Lakers on Wednesday be drama-free after Joel Embiid’s summer of banter with LaVar Ball?
Seems that way.
“I don’t know him personally but I don’t have anything against him,” Embiid said Tuesday of Lonzo Ball. “I said I love what he’s doing, especially with his own shoe.”
Embiid’s request on draft night has not been forgotten. His tweet asking Ben Simmons to “please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him” has been retweeted over 52,000 times since June 22. The back and forth between Embiid and Lonzo's father, LaVar, through various media platforms became a major offseason storyline.
Simmons tweeted “crazy pills” after the senior Ball reacted to his son being drafted by the Lakers and vowed a (seemingly improbable) playoff appearance this season.
LaVar Ball then took a jab at the Sixers’ record and Embiid’s lack of playing time on 97.5 The Fanatic by saying, “If you don't win and don't even make the playoffs and don't even stay on the court long enough, that's the best thing you can do is tweet.”
There are two things close to Embiid — his minutes and his social media.
“F--- LaVar Ball,” Embiid said in a Fourth of July video. He was fined by the NBA.
But Lonzo Ball is his own player. He’s stayed out of the exchanges and earned the respect of Embiid through his early play. Even though Ball isn’t posting team-leading numbers, he is fulfilling his role as a floor leader. Ball is averaging 9.5 points (31.3 percent shooting from the field, 25.0 percent from three-point range), 7.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds in 33.1 minutes.
“He’s a great point guard,” Embiid said. “He’s been struggling a little bit shooting the ball but he’s only played like 10, 15 games in the league. It’s all going to come together. But I’m a big fan. He’s a willing passer, especially as a point guard. Having that type of point guard that’s always willing to set guys up is always good.”
Simmons could get a closer look at Ball in the backcourt. He said he hasn’t watched a lot of him early in the season but they both have strong court vision and are unselfish with the ball.
“I know he can pass,” Simmons said. “He’s a pretty good player. He can play. He sees the game well, he reads it well, he’s a good player.”
So will this game end up being a quiet battle between two young teams or will commentary ensue?