76ers

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

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Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

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Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”

Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

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Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

MIAMI — Just over 24 hours before the Sixers face off against the Heat in Game 3, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful because of a left orbital fracture, or a 75 percent he will not play. That doesn’t mean, though, that status won’t change.

Embiid went through his second straight day of light practice Wednesday shortly after the team arrived in Miami. The Sixers will hold morning shootaround Thursday and could evaluate him again in pregame warmups before he is ruled in or out. 

Embiid was knocking down threes prior to the start of practice. 

Brett Brown said Embiid did a “little bit” of contact work Tuesday and handled it “quite well.” Conditioning is also a big part of his return. Embiid has not played in a game since March 28 when he suffered the fracture and a concussion. 

“It’s going to take time getting hit fitness up,” Brown said. “I think because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great … I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”

Embiid expressed his frustrations of being sidelined with an Instagram post shortly after the Sixers lost Game 2. They had previously won nine straight without him, which helped with his patience. 

“His spirit was very high,” Robert Covington said of his first practice. “Overall, he felt really good and we felt really good to have him out there with us.”

Embiid will have to shake off some rust when he does return. He thrives on consistent action to stay in game shape, and he’s been out for three weeks. If he’s not at 100 percent when he plays, Brown could see him still making an impact. 

“Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little more noticeable than defensively initially. He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent. He really is as smart and as instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.”

The Sixers are expecting another physical matchup with the Heat, especially with the next two games being in Miami. Embiid’s tough play would help them in that aspect as they try to take another series lead. The team has an approach, though, even if he cannot battle on the court. 

“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality." 

The Sixers are looking for their first win of the season in Miami.