UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Joel Embiid didn't miss a beat.
After being sidelined since Jan. 27 with a torn meniscus, Embiid made his long-awaited preseason debut on Wednesday. He picked up right where he left off from his standout rookie year.
Embiid had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in just under 15 minutes. He shot 4 for 9 from the field and an overwhelming 14 for 18 from the free throw line (see highlights). The center also attempted (and missed) a pair of threes. Even with a monster stat line, Embiid noted he thought his defense should have been stronger.
"I didn't have a lot of time on the court so I feel like I'm still behind, but with repetition, it's going to come," he said.
This preseason game was more than just his return from left knee surgery in March. It was his first contest since signing a mega five-year, $148 million contract extension on Tuesday. Embiid showed the Sixers they are getting their money's worth.
"All over the place. Something like tonight will remind us all that's why he was paid what he was paid," Brett Brown said.
After seeing Embiid's performance, Dario Saric endorsed his teammate's new deal with a smile (more on Saric here).
"I think Bryan (Colangelo) did a good job. He signed him for just $148 million. It's a joke," Saric said. "It's just pure talent. He's got talent to be one of the best to play this game. ... If he stays healthy, I hope I will be on his team ... because of that I can start to celebrate one championship earlier."
Many of the Sixers had not played in a game with Embiid before Wednesday. Ben Simmons got a small taste last training camp but never shared the court in a game.
Outside of a high-low play in which Embiid fed Simmons for a strong two-handed dunk (see highlights), the pair didn’t connect often throughout the win. Still, Simmons felt the big man’s impact on the game.
"[It's] way easier," Simmons said. "Just having him there, he draws so much attention. It was good for him to get his flow at the start and let him do his thing. As I've said, no one can really stop him. He's a beast down there."
Embiid didn't show lingering signs in the game from his knee surgery. He said his legs felt heavy at times but he expected that to happen since he hadn't played in so long.
Embiid was active on all ends of the floor and stayed in the game after taking spills. Brown hopes as Embiid's minutes become more consistent, the center will slow down his pace to avoid those hold-your-breath-as-he-hits-the-floor moments.
The Sixers have not officially said whether Embiid will play Friday in Kansas City. He would like to not only suit up but also have his minutes increased (he was capped at 12 to 14 against the Nets). Embiid’s goal is to be restriction-free for opening night on Oct. 18.