Joel Embiid has one suspension in his career, a two-game verdict handed down by the NBA on Halloween for a fight with the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and subsequent “escalation” that included shadowboxing to the delight of the crowd at Wells Fargo Center and jabs on social media in the wee hours of the morning. If he’s true to his word, that will be his last.

That’s what Embiid said Wednesday night after a second-quarter incident with Marcus Morris in the Sixers’ 109-104 win over the Knicks for which he was assessed a technical foul and Morris was given both a technical and a Flagrant 1.

“Obviously get away from the whole situation, which I did,” Embiid said. “I backed away. I vowed to never get suspended again, so that’s never going to happen. I’ve gotta limit my technical fouls. If someone is going to push me on the ground, that’s something I can’t control. But what I can control is I can’t be the instigator and actually start it. Going to do my job. My teammates need me to be on the floor, so that’s what I believe.”

Embiid was strong in his criticism of the referees’ decision to give him a technical. 

I didn’t have anything with him. I just got thrown on the ground and I literally don’t know why I got a technical foul, being the victim. I didn’t do anything. I feel like it’s starting to get ridiculous with the flagrants. Even the last one — I mean, I make a play and they still call a flagrant. This one, I have nothing to do, and I get thrown on the ground, and I get a technical foul. … It’s just annoying.

 

In the midst of his comments, he seemed to catch himself. A player who wants to avoid fines, suspensions and the like would probably be wise to adopt a more diplomatic approach.

“I feel like we’re all humans,” he continued. “Referees, they’re great guys, they’re great people. Maybe they see something else. I guess I trust whatever they feel that they see.”

Brett Brown surely remembered what happened in a near-identical spot on the floor a little over three weeks earlier, when much of his team ended up in an angry mass of bodies on the ground after Embiid and Towns got tied up. He was quick Wednesday night to plant himself between Morris and Embiid, extending his arms just in case it was necessary to separate the two. He was pleased with Embiid’s response.

“I was happy with that,” he said. “He had the maturity to walk away.”

Though trouble does seem to find Embiid, it would be naive to attribute his history with technical and flagrant fouls solely to bad luck. The two-time All-Star gets under the skin of opponents, embellishes contact, lets overmatched and undersized opponents know they cannot stop him. 

“He’s too big to be flopping,” Morris told reporters. “Just flopping and then grabbing. I’m not the one that’s going to take that. He knows that. He knows what I’m about.” 

The idea of Embiid avoiding such drama completely in the future sounds improbable. But for Embiid, the goal of having his absences be due exclusively to load management, not league-mandated punishment, is reasonable enough.

He said he’ll play in the Sixers’ upcoming home back-to-back, Friday vs. San Antonio and Saturday vs. the Miami Heat and his friend Jimmy Butler. 

So far, so good on that vow.

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