Joel Embiid played one of the best games in 76ers history

Joel Embiid played one of the best games in 76ers history

Man, did I want the Sixers to win that game last night. Partly due to Lonzo Ball and Luke Walton pettiness, partly because I didn't want the Sixers to risk falling under .500 again after their upcoming meeting with the Warriors, partly just because c'mon it's the friggin' Lakers. But by the end of last night, it was mostly just because I didn't want the greatest individual performance of the Sixers' last decade to go to waste. 

To say Joel Embiid just played the best game of his career is like saying Portugal. The Man just had the biggest pop hit of their career -- I mean, obv. Not only did JoJo demolish his previous career high (32, tied Monday night against the Clippers) in scoring with his 46, he also set new career highs in blocks (7) and assists (7) and came one off his career high in rebounds (16, set Monday night) with his 15 boards. He also went 14-20 from the field (and 16-19 from the line), only turned the ball over twice, and had at least one absolutely dynamite celebration shimmy. Oh, and the Sixers did win, 115-109, mostly 'coz of all that Embiid stuff. 

This was the game we were waiting for. Again, not to sound ungrateful for JoJo's still-superlative first 10 games of the season, but it felt like he turned a corner Monday night against the Clippers, and last night he was finally fully activated. He moved better, he reacted better, he shot better, and he absolutely dominated in all phases of the game. The Lakers could not stop Embiid on defense, and poor Julius Randle probably lost a good half-season off his player development for having been tasked with even trying to defend him at various points in this one. JoJo says this is still just him at 69% fitness -- obligatory "nice" -- and if so, the rest of the league should use a collective monkey-paw wish on him never finding that final 31%. 

Ben Simmons: also good. The Fresh Prince (and yeah, I'm OK with it -- more on that probably at a later date) finished with a mere 18-10-9-5, on 8-13 shooting with just a single turnover. Most importantly, he played brilliantly with Joel, delivering him a couple of those FGs on a purple-and-gold platter with his bounce passes and lobs around the basket. (Not to mention one kickout to Jo behind the arc -- he hit 2 of 3 from three as well, natch -- after posting up a smaller guard in the paint. The whole "Point guard setting up shop in the paint and then kicking out to our seven-foot center for three" thing... if we're supposed to get used to it at some point, it hasn't happened yet.) 

Considering the hugeness of some of his recent performances, Robert Covington had a relatively small impact last night, making some big defensive plays and one dagger three, but still ending with just 12 points (5-9 FG, 2-5 3PT) and six boards, with just one steal. In fact, the entire rest of the squad outside Simmons and Embiid failed to provide a ton of support, with the non-Joel Sixers going a dying-of-thirst 5-30 from deep, including 0-8 from J.J. "Don't Come to L.A." Redick, who needs a homecoming rejuvenation in the worst way. There have been Sixers Ws this season where their three-point shooting bailed out flawed Simmons and Embiid performances, this one was definitely the other way around. 

But of course, RoCo's big score yesterday came off the court, inking a four-year extension that it sounds like will bump his pay to a hefty $17 million for this season, but will only pay him between $10-12 mil annually for the four years to come. That's an absurd bargain for Philly: It's significantly less for one of the league's premiere 3-and-D guys than, for instance, what our Los Angeles friends are paying Luol Deng to not play for them in the seasons to come. Covington is top 10 in the league in Real Plus-Minus, but will be payed like a role player for the peak years of the Process. That's a bigger win than anything the Sixers did at Staples this week. 

Of course, those L.A. wins were pretty nice, particularly last night's Embiid-powered performance. BTW, that 46 is more for any Sixer since Iverson over a decade ago, and more for any non-AI Sixer since Dana Barros' legendary 50-point night in '95. It's also the first time since blocks started being recorded (i.e. post-Wilt) that a player put up numbers equal to 46-15-7-7, and it's the third-highest overall Game Score (vis Basketball-Reference) posted by anyone this year, after 57- and 56-point efforts from LeBron James and James Harden, and the fourth-best in recorded Sixers history. I mean, if you're not Trusting the Process by now, what the hell are you trusting?

Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

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Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

Philadelphia fans aren't the only ones who can't get their fill of Super Bowl Championship memorabilia. The Eagles players want in on the surfeit of champs gear as well.

Take Beau Allen for example. A true man of the people, Allen tweeted his desire for this absolutely beautiful leather jacket commemorating the Eagles victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Allen tweeted aloud, wondering why the Birds' players hadn't been issued one of these leather jackets yet?

One guess? They retail for a cool $3,000. Totally worth it. 

You can pick one up right here for a low $2,999.99. It's listed as a "Men's NFL Pro Line by Fanatics Branded Black/Green Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champions Full-Button Leather Jacket."

You'll be happy to know it's an officially licensed NFL product and is made in the USA. Just like Beau.

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night — the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 — Team LeBron emerging victorious — no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) — only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James — LeBron James!! — for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player — which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave — LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low — but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't — even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career — it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well.