Embiid ditches tape for dominance in Sixers' comeback

Embiid ditches tape for dominance in Sixers' comeback


NEW YORK — Joel Embiid brushed off concern over taping his left wrist Thursday leading up to the Sixers’ game against the Knicks.

“It’s just swag,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 118-110 win (see observations). “I just wanted to look swaggy, so I thought it was a great look for me. Some type of new swag. That’s why I had it.”

Embiid’s wrist was taped during morning shootaround and pregame warmups. He did not wear it during the game. 

“It’s been feeling weird lately, but I don’t think it’s anything,” Embiid said. “I’ve been playing alright, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.” 

Embiid played more than alright Thursday at Madison Square Garden. He erased any uneasiness of a potential injury with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The big man scored 13 points in the first quarter alone. 

With 2:26 to go in the game, he blocked an attempted layup by Emmanuel Mudiay that would have given the Knicks back the lead.

“He was the major reason we won tonight,” Brett Brown said. “Joel was our bell ringer tonight. Tomorrow is his birthday. It was a good present we all had with his performance tonight.”

The sight of Embiid's wrist probably would not have raised an eyebrow for most players — athletes wear medical tape every game — but the center’s lengthy injury history and his importance to the Sixers were enough to cause concern.

He is averaging 23.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. After playing under medical restrictions to start his career, Embiid has appeared in 12 straight games. 

Embiid is slated to spend his 24th birthday taking on the Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Sixers use monster 4th quarter to rally past Knicks

Sixers use monster 4th quarter to rally past Knicks


NEW YORK — The Sixers were on the verge of being the reason why the Knicks snapped a dismal eight-game losing streak. Instead, they ramped up their efforts in the fourth quarter to extend the Knicks’ skid.

After trailing by 13 points and down eight after three, the Sixers outscored the Knicks 35-19 in the final 12 minutes to pull off a 118-110 comeback Thursday.

The Sixers still need to clamp down as they approach the playoffs. While they have acknowledged no team can be overlooked, they have to take advantage of matchups against struggling teams to move up in the closely-matched standings. The Knicks now have lost 17 of their last 18 games.

“Some of that I give them [credit]. Some of it, I think, we can't play like that,” Brett Brown said. “There needs to be more of a sense of urgency to trend in the way we want to trend as the exciting part of the season comes closer.”

The Sixers moved up to 37-30 while the Knicks dropped to 24-45. 

• Joel Embiid always was listed as available to play, but tape on his left wrist during shootaround and pregame warmups raised questions about his health. Brown did not know the reason for the tape and Embiid did not address the media prior to the game.

Embiid showed he was more than OK to play. He kicked off the night with 13 points in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 29. He added 10 rebounds and four assists for his 35th double-double of the season. 

• Ben Simmons notched his eighth triple-double: 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He passed Magic Johnson for sole place of second for triple-doubles by a rookie. Oscar Robertson holds the record with 26 in 1960-61.

“To be with those names, it's surreal,” Simmons said. “Knowing the games been's played for a long time, so many greats have been through.”

Simmons proved he can be a high-caliber point guard in the NBA, but Brown isn’t locked in on him playing the point his entire career. Brown said before the game he believes Simmons could play some power forward in his career. Simmons' reaction? “Definitely a one, not four,” he said. 

• Robert Covington came up big beyond the arc. All 15 of his points were off threes. 

• This was a stat-stuffing night: five players (Embiid, Dario Saric, Michael Beasley, Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn) recorded double-doubles while Simmons had the triple-double. 

• Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Furkan Korkmaz (left foot) remained out. They went through pregame drills seen here: 

• Madison Square Garden is a loud arena and Knicks fans are prideful, but that didn’t stop Philadelphia fans from breaking out into a roaring “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant during the game. And, as always, they also yelled “Trust the Process.” 

Time for Markelle Fultz? Now makes plenty of sense

Time for Markelle Fultz? Now makes plenty of sense

There’s no time like the present.

For a team like the Sixers that analyzes every situation with an eye toward the future, that old saying might be difficult to get behind. But when it comes to Markelle Fultz, now is likely the best time to return to action … if he’s completely healthy.

That’s a big if when it comes to Fultz given that the rookie’s shoulder injury has limited him to just four games and the team hasn’t officially said whether he will return at all this season.

"It's all internal discussions we're going through right now and just trying to accurately assess his situation,” head coach Brett Brown said last week (see story).

However, the eye test would suggest things are going in the right direction. Fultz has gradually increased his workouts and his jump shot looks much closer to the silky version we witnessed from him at Washington and not the junky one from earlier this season. Just take a look at his latest session.

Can’t wait to see @markellefultz back out there. Just wait on it. 😈

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The Sixers would certainly have to believe those moves would look better in a uniform, and now is the perfect time to ease the 19-year-old back into the mix.

The Sixers’ next five games are against teams well out of the playoff picture (New York, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Memphis and Orlando), with three of those matchups coming at home. Plus, outside of Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker and emerging Sixer killer D'Angelo Russell, there aren’t many threats at guard Fultz would need to worry about. A comeback now also would give him a full month to prepare for a likely postseason appearance.

And while all of those factors benefit Fultz, the Sixers may actually reap the biggest rewards of all.

Even though the Sixers have proven to be a capable scoring team (10th in the NBA with 107.8 points per game and six players averaging double digits), they can certainly use more on the offensive end when it comes to facing a playoff team. Fultz would take some of that burden to set up the offense off Ben Simmons and give the squad an element it desperately needs: a player that can create his own shot. After all, Fultz is going to be a problem once he does suit up (see story).

“He really does something with the basketball that no other player with the exception maybe of Ben can do with a live ball,” Brown said.

Now it’s just time to see Fultz in live action.