Joel Embiid reminds just how good he is with dominant debut

Joel Embiid reminds just how good he is with dominant debut


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.

"It felt great," Embiid said after the Sixers’ 133-114 win over the Nets (see observations). "I’m glad I’m back.”

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.

2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

The Sixers have plenty of housekeeping to do with just four players on their roster — plus first-round pick Matisse Thybulle — but they may need some outside help as well.

We begin our free agency targets by looking at possible point guard options. With Ben Simmons clearly entrenched in the starting role, we won’t be looking at the big names like Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell.

These five players would fit nicely in a bench role or perhaps starting next to Simmons.

Patrick Beverley

Beverley will become a fan favorite most likely immediately. The 30-year-old guard is a defensive maven whose best skill is getting under his opponents’ skin. In addition to that, Beverley has become an elite three-point shooter. He’s shot nearly 40 percent on over four attempts a game over the last four seasons. Beverley likely won’t come cheap, but if you’re unable to bring back only one — or neither — of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, he’d make a ton of sense. He’s not necessarily a true point guard offensively, but with his ability to shoot, he’d slot in quite nicely next to Simmons.

Malcolm Brogdon

This one is a little tricky because Brogdon is a restricted free agent and there is no doubt Milwaukee would love to re-sign him. The issue is that the Bucks are dealing with their own cap issues after giving Eric Bledsoe an extension and with starters Khris Middleton and Robin Lopez about to hit the open market. Brogdon is just a complete player. His shooting numbers were elite last season as part of the 50/40/90 club. He can rebound, he can pass, he doesn’t turn the ball over and is a strong defender. He’s the perfect kind of complementary player for the Sixers — if they can afford him — and you’d be taking away from one of your main competitors.

Cory Joseph

If you look just at Joseph’s numbers, you might wonder why he’s on this list. He’s not much of a scorer and his three-point shooting has been pretty volatile during his NBA career. With that said, he’s an excellent defender. Think about how much the Sixers struggled during the season with scoring guards and in the pick-and-roll. Joseph can be the guy who sticks Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s an upgrade over T.J. McConnell defensively and he’ll at least take open looks. Joseph spent his first two seasons in San Antonio while Brett Brown was in charge of player development, so there’s a connection there.

Trey Burke

While Burke will likely never live up to his status as a top-10 pick, there’s still an intriguing NBA skill set there. He’s a shot creator, something the Sixers could use, and his three-point shooting has been above average over his last three NBA seasons (37 percent). His size and defense will be a concern, but you’d hope the presence of Simmons could help mitigate that. Burke is still just 26 so there’s also a reasonable chance he improves — especially when surrounded by better players. 

Delon Wright

Wright is a tier below some of these other names, but he’s interesting. A first-round pick in 2015, Wright spent the first 3 ½ seasons of his career in Toronto before going to Memphis in the Marc Gasol trade. His shooting has been pretty up and down, but he can score thanks to his ability to change speeds. He has great size at 6-foot-5 and is a decent passer and rebounder. Defensively, he’s long and versatile and is active in passing lanes. He’s restricted so Memphis can match offers, but how much do they want to spend on a guard with Ja Morant now in the fold?

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Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

For Marial Shayok, basketball is in his blood. His 6-foot-9 father, Makor, was a fierce rebounder at Dayton University before playing overseas. His older sister Yar, who is 6-1, carried on the tradition with a solid career at the University of Detroit Mercy before playing overseas herself. His older brother Shayok, who also stands 6-9, played at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I was born into it,” Shayok said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Friday. “Even the neighborhood that I was raised in was a basketball neighborhood, with the rise of Vince Carter when I was a young kid, and having a bunch of stars in the NBA really emerge, like rockstars. So basketball was always the main thing in my life and the dream.”

Marial is now the first Shayok, and Ottawa native, to reach the NBA.

“I was able to be the first one out of my family, out of my city of Ottawa, to be drafted to the NBA and I’m so happy and grateful to be in this position,” Shayok said.

“Everyone (in my family) had a part in this accomplishment and so we were all obviously very emotional.”

One of the oldest players in the draft at 23 years old, Shayok knew there were no guarantees on draft night. Shayok had worked out for the Sixers early in the draft process, but he had also worked out with 14 other teams, in addition to showcasing his skills at the Portsmouth Invitational, Combine and G-League Elite camp.

He knew he had a solid season as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, as the only player nationally to average 18.5 points while shooting at least 49 percent from the field, 38 percent behind the arc, and 87 percent at the free throw line.

But, he also knew his offensive abilities weren’t on display for the first three years of his collegiate career at the University of Virginia.

“Just trying to stay positive,” Shayock said about the uncertainty on draft night. “I think I did pretty well in the draft process. … and I really just left it in God’s hands, kept my faith and I’m just glad and grateful that I’m here.”

Sixers general manager Elton Brand is glad, too.

“We studied him for awhile,” Brand said Thursday night after the draft concluded. “Started for three years at Virginia, where he was more of a defensive player and then he transferred and became an offensive player, averaging over 18 points per game, great three-point shooter. Tough, gritty. Young talent and he can play.”

The Sixers have already made their impression on Shayock.

“The organization is obviously one of the best in the league, one of the best teams in the league with the talent they have, with two of the biggest stars in the NBA," he said. "Me, being the player that I am, hopefully I can just come in and be confident and help win games.

“It’s surreal, a dream come true, still hard to believe. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet. But it’s reality and I’m just definitely grateful and glad that I’m here.”

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