BOSTON — Winning, naturally, draws more fans and positivity around a team. Joel Embiid gets that. At the same time, he’s not about to forget what being on the Sixers was like just a few seasons ago when much of that support wasn’t there.
“My mindset has always been, three, four years ago, no one was around, no one was talking about us,” Embiid said after practice Wednesday. “Anything new, that always comes, I’m like, ‘That’s nice.’ But like, where was everybody three or four years ago?”
The Sixers have become one of the most talked-about teams in the NBA. They ended the season on a scorching 16-game win streak, surpassed 50 victories, beat out the Cavaliers for the third seed, and eliminated the Heat in just five games to move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics.
The Sixers pulled off a major turnaround led by two of the top young talents in the league, laying the foundation for a bright future. Yet it was only two years ago they went 10-72, part of a 75-253 record over Brett Brown’s first four seasons as head coach.
“I kind of hold grudges because three, four years ago we were the laughingstock of the whole NBA,” Embiid said. “Then now we’re here, everybody’s talking about us. I don’t think it makes a difference. (Philadelphia basketball icon) Sonny Hill always tells me, you can’t get too high, can’t get too low, you’ve got to always keep your balance.”
Embiid has stayed loyal to those who have been there all along. He’s met with fans who travel long distances to attend road games and partook in “Trust the Process” chants last year at the NFL draft. Following the Sixers’ Game 1 loss, he brushed off the noise from the 18,624 inside the TD Garden and declared, “I think our fans are louder than that.”
“I really appreciate that support,” Embiid said.
Embiid is confident in the Sixers as they approach Game 2 down 0-1 to the Celtics and moving forward. He noted their talent level, strong team culture and unselfish style of play. Embiid believes the result of Game 2 will be up to the Sixers’ executing their strategy.
“It’s nice,” Embiid said of the buzz around the Sixers. “But I don’t really pay attention to it. That’s when you’ve got to keep staying focused and keep doing your job.”