Sixers-Nets preseason observations: Welcome back, Joel Embiid


UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Joel Embiid drained the Sixers’ first basket of the game (see video) and set the tone for the night in his preseason debut.

The big man played with every ounce of energy of someone who had been sidelined since January and then some in the Sixers’ 133-114 win over the Nets on Wednesday.

Embiid posted 22 points (4 for 9 from the field, 0 for 2 from three, 14 for 18 from the line), seven rebounds, three assists, one block, one turnover, three fouls, and was a plus-15 in just under 15 minutes. (He was allotted 12 to 14 minutes.) 

Embiid, who was making his return after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, was active in all areas of the game. He did everything from calling for the ball to pulling up for three to hitting the floor (yeah, he's still doing that) after hustle plays. He made the free throw line his second home, shooting 12 for 16 in the first half alone.

One of his three dimes: finding Ben Simmons.

• The difference with Embiid always has been glaring. Now it's perhaps more noticeable since the Sixers have enhanced their roster. Embiid isn't just the best player on the court with various teammates pieced together through injuries like last season. He is the best player on a "team," one that has been revamped with established veterans and new young talent. Brett Brown had noted how the Sixers have to learn how to play with him back in the mix, and it was apparent how much he affects the rest of the lineup (see story).

• Dario Saric snapped into midseason form. He led all players with 26 points. Saric held his own three-point contest in the first half when he drained four treys and scored 17 points off the bench (see story).

• Every NBA arena has different seating for the media. Sitting courtside at this game gave a glimpse into just how vocal T.J. McConnell is on the floor. He was constantly engaging with teammates during plays and after calls. Following one whistle in particular, he made his rounds to talk to JJ Redick on the court, pat Amir Johnson on the chest for encouragement at the free throw line and converse with Brown on the sideline.

• Embiid, Simmons, Redick, Jerryd Bayless and Robert Covington started. Johnson received the minutes at backup center behind Embiid. Jahlil Okafor played in the second half and prompted fans to eagerly yell, "Spin move!" thanks to his shot selection. 

• James Michael McAdoo and James Blackmon Jr. did not play. Brown is tightening up his rotations in the last two preseason games.

• Markelle Fultz's status for Friday is to be determined. He sat out because of right knee soreness.