76ers

Joel Embiid reminds just how good he is with dominant debut

Joel Embiid reminds just how good he is with dominant debut

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Joel Embiid didn't miss a beat.

After being sidelined since Jan. 27 with a torn meniscus, Embiid made his long-awaited preseason debut on Wednesday. He picked up right where he left off from his standout rookie year.

"It felt great," Embiid said after the Sixers’ 133-114 win over the Nets (see observations). "I’m glad I’m back.”

Embiid had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in just under 15 minutes. He shot 4 for 9 from the field and an overwhelming 14 for 18 from the free throw line (see highlights). The center also attempted (and missed) a pair of threes. Even with a monster stat line, Embiid noted he thought his defense should have been stronger. 

"I didn't have a lot of time on the court so I feel like I'm still behind, but with repetition, it's going to come," he said. 

This preseason game was more than just his return from left knee surgery in March. It was his first contest since signing a mega five-year, $148 million contract extension on Tuesday. Embiid showed the Sixers they are getting their money's worth.

"All over the place. Something like tonight will remind us all that's why he was paid what he was paid," Brett Brown said. 

After seeing Embiid's performance, Dario Saric endorsed his teammate's new deal with a smile (more on Saric here)

"I think Bryan (Colangelo) did a good job. He signed him for just $148 million. It's a joke," Saric said. "It's just pure talent. He's got talent to be one of the best to play this game. ... If he stays healthy, I hope I will be on his team ... because of that I can start to celebrate one championship earlier."

Many of the Sixers had not played in a game with Embiid before Wednesday. Ben Simmons got a small taste last training camp but never shared the court in a game. 

Outside of a high-low play in which Embiid fed Simmons for a strong two-handed dunk (see highlights), the pair didn’t connect often throughout the win. Still, Simmons felt the big man’s impact on the game.

"[It's] way easier," Simmons said. "Just having him there, he draws so much attention. It was good for him to get his flow at the start and let him do his thing. As I've said, no one can really stop him. He's a beast down there."  

Embiid didn't show lingering signs in the game from his knee surgery. He said his legs felt heavy at times but he expected that to happen since he hadn't played in so long. 

Embiid was active on all ends of the floor and stayed in the game after taking spills. Brown hopes as Embiid's minutes become more consistent, the center will slow down his pace to avoid those hold-your-breath-as-he-hits-the-floor moments. 

The Sixers have not officially said whether Embiid will play Friday in Kansas City. He would like to not only suit up but also have his minutes increased (he was capped at 12 to 14 against the Nets). Embiid’s goal is to be restriction-free for opening night on Oct. 18.

Sixers-Pistons observations: A Simmons triple-double and Embiid stars in 1st win

Sixers-Pistons observations: A Simmons triple-double and Embiid stars in 1st win

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — In a much-anticipated matchup Monday night featuring two elite centers, it was the Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid who stood above the rest.

Back in the starting lineup after sitting out Saturday’s blowout loss in Toronto, Embiid out-shined Detroit’s franchise player Andre Drummond to lead the Sixers to their first regular-season win — a much-needed 97-86 victory over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

Embiid wasn’t alone with a stellar performance. Rookie Ben Simmons notched a triple-double to become just the third player to accomplish the feat within his first four games (Oscar Robertson in 1960 and Art “Hambone” Williams in 1967).

It was a much-needed win for the Sixers, who entered Monday winless and one game removed from a 34-point blowout loss in Toronto. 

Embiid showcased his polished shooting stroke, highlighted by a three-pointer to close out the first quarter, and put his athleticism on full display en route to a team-high 30-point performance. 

The 23-year-old center logged 28 minutes after playing 27 minutes on Friday. He took advantage of every minute, making 11 of 15 shots, grabbing nine boards and hitting 7 of 8 free throws. A second-quarter dramatic slam dunk over Drummond, who was held 14 points, capped Embiid’s impressive night. 

The Sixers took a 56-43 lead into the half, but nearly squandered a 21-point lead after the Pistons cut their lead to 81-78 with less than eight minutes to play before pulling away late.

• After falling just shy of a triple-double on Saturday, Simmons pulled it off Monday in the final minutes to become the third player in NBA history to record a triple-double within the first four career games. Simmons finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to extend his career-starting double-double streak to a fourth straight game. In doing so, he became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal to record a double-double in each of his first four career games. O'Neal's stretch lasted 11 straight games.

• Markelle Fultz was held two just two points and failed to leave a strong offensive impression for the fourth straight game. Fultz consistently managed to get into position for open looks, but appeared hesitant to pull the trigger. When he did, he struggled to make shots outside the paint, including a wide open 15-footer in the first quarter. Fultz, who is battling a sore right shoulder, was limited to 16 minutes of action — the fewest minutes he’s logged this season.

• During Monday’s morning shootaround, head coach Brett Brown stressed the need for his team to cut down on turnovers and commit fewer fouls. The Sixers struggled with turnovers, committing 21 after averaging 17 the first three games, but managed to overcome early mistakes and limit the bleeding.

• Pistons fans didn’t take kindly to their home team’s sluggish first-half performance, showering Detroit with boos after Jerryd Bayless hit a three-pointer to put the Sixers up 51-30 in the second quarter. The Pistons announced a near-sellout crowd in what was the team’s second regular-season game at their new home, Little Caesars Arena. However, dozens of empty rows and a sea of red seats were spotted throughout the game. 

• Embiid quickly made his presence felt with six points (2 of 3 shooting) in the first five minutes before being subbed by former Piston Amir Johnson. Johnson, who finished with three points, has played on four teams throughout his 13-year career, and faced all three of his former teams (Pistons, Celtics and Raptors) in the last seven days. 

Brown says 'nobody has any fears' over long-term impact on Fultz's shot

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Brown says 'nobody has any fears' over long-term impact on Fultz's shot

DETROIT — If you’re under the impression Markelle Fultz’s shooting game has been affected by his sore right shoulder, you’re not alone.

Sixers coach Brett Brown thinks so, too.

“There’s no doubt that it factors into what people question right now about his shot. There’s no doubt,” Brown said prior to the Sixers’ matchup Monday night in Detroit. “You don’t just walk a certain way for a long period of your life, and then all of the sudden, start to limp.”

Brown’s comments come on the heels of another worrisome shooting performance from Fultz, who made just 1 of 5 shots en route to six points in Saturday’s 128-94 blowout loss in Toronto.

It marked the second straight game Fultz logged only six points after he made just 2 of 9 shots in the Sixers’ home-opening loss to the Boston Celtics.

“(Fultz) doesn’t let on much. He doesn’t want to let on much,” Brown said. “But nobody’s hiding anything. It’s just, none of us can dismiss that it doesn’t factor into some of the shooting concerns that he might have. 

“What I do know is that the work he puts in, the work on his shoulder, all that stuff, nobody is dramatizing it. It’s consistent and I think it’s heading into the path that we want.”

Brown acknowledged that Fultz’s shoulder woes remain a cause for concern. That said, it appears Brown has no intention of sitting the 19-year-old sharpshooter, who has yet to attempt a three-pointer in his first three regular-season games, despite shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc in his lone season season at the University of Washington.

“I’m trying to grow him and find minutes for him, and become a part of what we’re doing,” Brown said. “He’s obviously a huge part of our future. That kind of stuff is what’s mostly on my mind.”

Asked whether he had concerns about whether continuing to play Fultz could affect his shot down the road, Brown was quick to dismiss the notion, citing the opinion of the team’s medical staff. 

“I’m advised mostly by the medical people — that’s what I get worried about the most. And nobody has any fears,” Brown said. “Like we’ve said to Markelle, this is not going to define him. This first season is not going to define him. 

“He’s so compliant. When you really dig in deeper, and not get tricked by just statistics, he’s been good. He really has been good.”