76ers

Joel Embiid shares summer trash talk with Draymond Green

Joel Embiid shares summer trash talk with Draymond Green

SAN FRANCISCO — Joel Embiid got a jump-start on trash talking against the Warriors months before their Nov. 11 matchup. 

Embiid was at a dinner this past summer with Draymond Green. Embiid got the banter underway when he shared his expectations with one of the league’s most outspoken players. 

“I told him that I was going to kick his a--,” Embiid said Friday after practice. “I can’t wait to play against him. I love the way he talks trash. I feel like I’m kind of like the same, so it’s going to be a fun battle.” 

Green took Embiid’s comments in stride. They ended up exchanging phone numbers. 

“He was just laughing,” Embiid said. “Then he was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ Friendly trash talk.”

Embiid will play against the Warriors for the first time in his career on Saturday. He is looking forward to competing against Green, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. 

Embiid also has heard about the energy level of the Warriors’ fans inside Oracle Arena and can’t wait to play in that environment. Even if the crowd drowns out the noise on the court, there will be plenty of chatter going on. 

“I love doing that,” Embiid said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re my friend or not. I’m always going to talk trash.” 

The Sixers could use a strong game from Embiid against the 9-3 Warriors. Even though he’s putting up standout numbers (20.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game), Embiid has shot a combined 14 for 35 from the field and committed a total of 11 turnovers in his last two games. He did not play Tuesday against the Jazz.

Any time Embiid shows signs of struggles, eyebrows are raised about his health. Brett Brown acknowledged Embiid experiences “a little bit” of soreness after playing but isn’t worried. Embiid played 32 minutes on Thursday against the Kings. 

“I think some of that is just to be expected from a man of 7-foot-2, 280 pounds,” Brown said. “It’s just part of the wear and tear of playing 30-something minutes. You feel that there is soreness. With him, because there have been other injuries, those are exacerbated a little bit. But not to the point where we’re alarmists or anything’s overly concerning. It’s just the whole recovery and maintenance of Joel.”

The big man, who underwent left knee surgery in March, said there’s nothing to fret about. 

“I feel great,” Embiid said. “I’m good. Just got to get in shape.”

Embiid is working on his conditioning. He is trying to drop a couple pounds to 280, his weight during the Sixers’ 10-5 month of January. His goal would be 275 pounds. 

“My legs wouldn’t feel as heavy as they feel, especially at the end of games,” Embiid said of weight-loss objectives. “I’d get more lift. I’d just be more athletic. This year, I feel like I haven’t been the same defensively, although the numbers say that I’m better than I was last year. … I think I’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it. I’m only playing about 27 minutes and it’s all going to come together.”

A good place for that to happen would be in Oakland. 

What Sixers need more and less of in second half

What Sixers need more and less of in second half

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA's All-Star festivities, the Sixers will reconvene this week and turn their attention back to the playoff push.

With 27 games remaining in the regular season over a 49-day stretch, it will be a sprint to the finish.

So how can the Sixers capture their first postseason berth in six seasons? Let's take a look at what the team needs more and less of down the stretch.

More: Healthy Embiid
What injury? Joel Embiid shook off right ankle soreness to participate in three events during All-Star weekend as a shining representation of the up-and-coming Sixers.

"There was never really a thought about missing out on any of these events," Embiid said Friday after the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. "It's my first time, so I'm going to have fun."

The big man is always about having fun, but now it's time to get down to business. Even though the Sixers' competition appears to lighten up after the break, the schedule does not (27 games with six back-to-back sets).

The Sixers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and just 3-8 when he doesn't suit up. They need the center healthy and on the court.

Less: Turnovers
Way less, actually. 

As you know by now, the Sixers have a bit of an issue holding onto the basketball. They simply don't respect each possession enough, evidenced by their 17.5 turnovers per game. That's good enough for dead last in the NBA and it's a full 1.5 turnovers more than the closest team (Los Angeles Lakers).

And it's not just the miscues. Teams are capitalizing, too — the Sixers also rank 30th in opponents' points off turnovers (19.4).

Of the "Four Factors" statistic on the offensive end, which breaks down weighted factors that help a team win a game — shooting (40 percent), turnovers (25 percent), rebounding (20 percent) and free throws (15 percent) — the only category that the Sixers rank outside of the NBA's top 10 in is turnovers.

If they can cut down on the giveaways just a little, it will go a long way toward their goal.

More: Early execution
However, not all of those possessions end up with the Sixers running back on defense after a turnover.

With more legit scoring options on the roster this season than any previous time during Brett Brown's tenure, they have shown the ability to execute a play to perfection for a bucket.

It's a stark contrast to the days when they couldn't even get the ball in on an inbounds play.

That level of scoring punch has been particularly evident at the start of games. The Sixers are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for fourth in the league in first-quarter points per game (28.7) and are even with the L.A. Clippers for seventh in first-half points a night (55.2).

The Sixers must continue to apply that pressure on teams at the outset of games, especially if their woes finishing off opponents is going to persist.

Less: Bad Covington
Ah, the curious case of Robert Covington.

Has any player in NBA history ever looked like they could make a push for an All-Star spot for two months only to appear as if they belong in the G League the next few months?

Covington has always been a streaky shooter, but this season has been extreme. He shot 44.7 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from three-point range in October and November to help secure his multiyear extension. 

Since that point, the swingman has connected on just 37.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from long distance.

Whether it's the weight of the big contract or the nasty spill he took against the Cavs in December, Covington hasn't looked the same on the floor in several months. The team needs him to get it together and the sooner the better.

More: Killer D's
While Embiid's presence on both ends and Ben Simmons' wizardry at the point have put the Sixers in position to snag a playoff bid, the team didn't really hit its stride until a certain pairing found its footing: Dario Saric and defense.

Much like his rookie season, Saric struggled to find his role at the start. But that's long in the rearview mirror now. The second-year forward has increased his production each month and has been rolling so far in February (18.6 points, 51.7 percent field goals, 46.3 percent threes, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game).

That surge has coincided with the Sixers' tightened grip on defense. In seven games this month, they've allowed 96.1 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting.

The type of balance Saric offers offensively and the overall lockdown defense won't only make the Sixers a postseason team, it will also make them a tough out. 

Less: Fultz speculation
This is a big deal that the Sixers could make very small with a clear decision on the No. 1 pick's immediate future.

Markelle Fultz reportedly continues to ramp up his rehab workouts for his ailing shoulder, even after team president Bryan Colangelo said earlier this month that the guard could return soon or be shut down for the season.

The franchise should obviously give Fultz every chance to come back and contribute, but that ruling should be made at the first opportunity.

It's after the All-Star break and having that type of deliberation hovering over the team isn't exactly fair to the other players. Not to mention, for a guy that has apparently dealt with questions regarding his confidence, possibly dropping him into the thick of a playoff race doesn't really do him any favors either.

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”