When 'The Process' transforms into 'Black Mamba'

When 'The Process' transforms into 'Black Mamba'


CLEVELAND — Joel Embiid isn’t settling for mediocre. He has his sights set on being one of the best to play the game and is likening his offensive approach to an elite. 

The seven-footer wants to be like future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. 

The opportunity arose Thursday in the Sixers’ 108-97 win over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena (see observations). A double-teamed Embiid drained a turnaround fadeaway with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, then pointed to a fan and made a shooting motion. His inner Kobe was channeled. 

“The whole game he was just talking, I thought it was funny,” Embiid said of the fan. “As soon as I caught that ball, I think he was saying I suck and I can’t score. Then the double-team came but I was already into my fadeaway, so I felt like Kobe. 

“Then I made it and I made sure to let them know that I’m one of the best players in the league, in the world. I love it. It’s all about having fun and I have fun.”

Embiid posted a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double in the Sixers’ first win over the Cavaliers since Jan. 5, 2015. The Sixers had a balanced team effort with all their starters scoring in double digits, including a bounce-back 22-point performance from JJ Redick. 

Still, Embiid wanted to make significant buckets. 

“That was a double-team,” Embiid explained. “But Kobe is my favorite player, so from watching him he doesn’t pass the ball, so double-team or triple-team, I felt like I had to shoot the ball.”

So what exactly does it mean to feel “like Kobe?” Well, it’s all about pushing to be great, even if it is just the beginning stages of a career.

“He’s one of the best players to ever play, so if the question is what does it feel to feel like one of the best players to ever play, then it feels great to be in that type of position,” Embiid said. “I’m trying to reach that level. Got a long way to go, but I intend to get there.” 

Sixers add another twist in bizarre Markelle Fultz injury saga

Sixers add another twist in bizarre Markelle Fultz injury saga

If Markelle Fultz is going to return this season, the decision to do so starts with him, Brett Brown said Saturday.

“When Markelle Fultz feels like he can go, he really feels good about himself and his health, the shoulder, everything, and the medical people support that," Brown said before the Sixers' win over the Timberwolves. "He knows he’s got a coaching staff and a team that will welcome him in when he says go.”

Then asked if the decision-making process begins with Fultz telling the Sixers he wants to play, Brown replied, “Yes.” 

Fultz has been sidelined since Oct. 23 because of a right shoulder injury. His return has not been ruled out, even with 10 games remaining in the regular season. Brown has said a determination would need to be made “soon,” but a cutoff has not been set.

“We understand the closeness of the end of the season,” Brown said. “Every time we speak, it gets a little bit shrunk. But in relation to an exact date, that hasn’t happened.” 

Fultz has been trying to regain the shot that helped make him the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. For those who don’t get to watch Fultz work behind closed doors, his progress has evaluated through videos from practices, shootarounds and pregame warmups. 

“I think he is quite close,” Brown said. “I think when we all watch the video, we’d all probably agree with that.”

If Fultz were to return, the Sixers would have to rework rotations they have been trying to establish for the playoffs. Fultz’s role as a guard is one that would put the ball in his hands, adding another layer to work through to get incorporated into the system. His return before the postseason would create a myriad of question marks on the court with a limited amount of time to answer them. 

Brown is not correlating a possible Fultz return with the Sixers clinching a spot in the playoffs. They would have locked in one of the top-eight seeds Saturday had the Pistons lost to the Bulls, but the Pistons did not.

“It’s not like the playoff berth will trigger a bunch of other things that will make it easier for him to come back," Brown said. "It isn’t that at all … they’re not interconnected.”

Sixers look like a playoff team in win over Timberwolves

Sixers look like a playoff team in win over Timberwolves


The Timberwolves were an anomaly in a recent stretch of sub-.500 opponents for the Sixers — a playoff contender holding their own without Jimmy Butler in the tough Western Conference.

The Sixers took care of business, 120-108, but it wasn’t without a hitch in the final quarter.

The Sixers had a 98-71 lead after three, a big enough gap for Brett Brown to comfortably sit his starters in the fourth. Well, it should have been a big enough lead. The Timberwolves cut that deficit to 10 points, and Brown turned back to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to quiet the Timberwolves’ push.

“For us, we don’t want to go back in,” Simmons said after the game. “We want to see our guys play and finish out the game because we know they’re capable of that. But to see our guys not do that, it’s kind of annoying but we’ve got to get on top of that and everybody has to be ready to play.”

This was a less-than-ideal situation as the Sixers are looking for ways to rest their high-minutes players, particularly Embiid, who had only clocked 22 minutes through three quarters. In total, Embiid and Simmons played less than two minutes apiece in the fourth, but the reserves have to take better control of leads so the starters don’t have to return at all.

"I trust the guys that were on the floor," Embiid said. "We just wanted to make sure we had it locked and that nothing was going to happen. But it was nothing."

The Sixers improved to 42-30. They could have clinched a playoff spot with a Pistons loss to the Bulls, but Detroit won Saturday night, 117-95.

• Simmons needed less than three quarters to record his 10th triple-double of the season: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists.

• Joel Embiid was having a good time out there on his way to 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

• Led by those 13 assists from Simmons, the Sixers dished a total of 33 dimes. Their five-straight games of 30-plus assists are their longest such stretch since December 1981. With assists, turnovers can be just as significant. The Sixers committed 14, equal to the Timberwolves, but gave up only 13 points compared to the Timberwolves’ 22.

• The Eagles continue to show their support for the Sixers: