Joel Embiid, Justin Anderson recount 'insane' Super Bowl experience

Joel Embiid, Justin Anderson recount 'insane' Super Bowl experience

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Justin Anderson tried to soak up everything from inside U.S. Bank Stadium — the game, the crowd, the passionate celebration when the clock ran out and the Eagles were hoisting the trophy. 

The magnitude of the opportunity to experience their city's team winning it all over the Patriots was not lost on the pair of Sixers

"I can't believe I went to the Super Bowl," Anderson said after practice Monday. "Coming from where I come from, Joel was the same way, we were talking about how incredible the moment is. We were trying to take pictures and videos so we could just hold on to them forever."

Anderson and Embiid flew to Minneapolis following the Sixers' loss to the Pacers Saturday night in Indianapolis. The team did not practice Sunday after back-to-back games, making it a geographically ideal scenario.

Embiid wanted to be a part of the crowd as much as he could, so they alternated seats between the stands and a suite. Even though Embiid drew a lot of attention (it's kind of hard for a 7-foot-2 All-Star to blend in, after all), he embraced every part of it. 

"Well, it wasn't exactly being treated like a regular fan because it was kind of crazy," Embiid said. "People following you all over the place, people coming up to you, pushing you, asking for pictures. It was actually insane in that case. But I always think about myself like a regular person. I want to be able to enjoy everything because I'm only 23. I want to be out and about, just seeing the whole world."

While they were at the Super Bowl, they watched celebratory reactions from a distance as fans flooded the streets of Philadelphia. 

"It was insane," Embiid said. "I wish I was in town. I would have been jumping over cars and doing the same thing they were doing. But I saw the videos, it was amazing. It just shows you the passion the fans and this city have. I want to be in that type of situation, too. I was just excited about it all."

Anderson and Embiid took a charter plane back after the game. They landed in Philadelphia around 3 a.m. Monday following some delays on the runway. The Sixers practiced Monday afternoon, where they discussed the victory and what it means for the city and its fans.

"It's just an amazing story of perseverance. It's an amazing story of belief," Brett Brown said. "One of the common threads with it all is our fanbase is very unique in pro sport. To envision what a Wells Fargo arena would look like during the playoffs gets us all going."

Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell headline NBA All-Rookie first team

Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell headline NBA All-Rookie first team

Sixers guard Ben Simmons and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell continue to be linked in the quest for Rookie of the Year. 

They both were unanimously named to the 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie first team with first-place votes on every ballot. 

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen rounded out the first team. Tatum was one vote short of also being a unanimous selection. 

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks forward/center John Collins, Suns forward Josh Jackson and Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. were named to the second team. 

Simmons (15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.7 steals), Mitchell (20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals) and Tatum (13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals) are the finalists for Rookie of the Year. The award will be announced on June 25.

The All-Rookie votes were cast by global broadcasters and sportswriters, choosing five players at any position for each team. First team votes were weighted with two points, second team votes one. 

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

USA Today Images

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Position: Power Forward/Center

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Johnson in 2017-18
The Sixers signed Johnson to provide solid backup minutes to Joel Embiid. He certainly wasn’t spectacular in that role, but that’s not who he is. He did his job.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, playing in 74 contests. He averaged 15.8 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2008-09 season.

It seemed like Johnson’s name was always linked with Richaun Holmes, the younger, springier center also competing for backup center minutes (see Holmes' evaluation). While Johnson doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or offensive ability, Brett Brown preferred the veteran’s defense. During the regular season, Johnson had a 101.3 defensive rating, while Holmes’ was nearly five points worse, at 106.2.

At the start of the postseason, Johnson played some important minutes with Embiid working his way back from a left eye orbital fracture, and he played well. Despite Johnson not creating much of his own offense, the Sixers had no problem scoring when he was on the floor. In fact, Johnson’s 121.5 offensive rating was the best of any player in the first round of the playoffs.

Brown then drastically cut his minutes against the Celtics, Johnson’s former team, leaning heavily on Embiid. Johnson only played 17 minutes the entire Boston series, sitting on the bench for all of Game 4 and 5. He didn’t score in the series.

Signature game
In the Sixers’ 121-113 win over the Hawks on April 10, their 15th straight victory, Johnson posted 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. That game was during Embiid’s recovery from his eye injury, which gave Johnson more of a chance to shine.

When Embiid was active, however, Johnson mainly just held down the fort while the big man got some rest.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Johnson sometimes seems older than he actually is, mainly because of his experience and the way he carries himself. At 31 years old, Johnson has already played 13 years in the NBA, since he was the last player to be drafted directly from high school in 2005 before the league changed its eligibility requirements.

JJ Redick and Johnson were two players the young Sixers could always turn to for wisdom. Johnson never complains about his minutes, always plays hard and goes about his business like a true professional — there’s no doubt he’s a good guy to have in the locker room.

Does that mean he’ll still be a part of the Sixers’ locker room next season? Not necessarily. With the Sixers looking to acquire a superstar this offseason, Johnson would likely have to take a pay cut from the $11 million he made this year if he wants to stay in Philadelphia.

And in the long term, the Sixers may ultimately want to place their faith in Holmes, who’s seven years younger and has a higher upside. If Holmes can improve his defense, Johnson could be expendable.

On Johnson
“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were. People skills, works his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

- Brett Brown on Johnson after the Sixers' 107-86 win over the Jazz on Nov. 20