Joel Embiid's love of Shirley Temples: The origin

Joel Embiid's love of Shirley Temples: The origin

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid remembers the moment it happened, that night back in Kansas when he took a (non-alcoholic) sip and was hooked. It was then that Embiid’s affinity for Shirley Temples began. 

“One night I went out with my teammates,” Embiid explained at shootaround Wednesday. “I don’t drink alcohol so I wasn’t drinking. This girl walked up to me, she was talking to me, she was like, ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’ I was like, ‘I just don’t drink, alcohol is nasty.’ She said, ‘I might have something for you.’ She went and got a Shirley Temple. Then I was like, ‘Ohhh OK.’ Then I fell in love with it and since then, I’ve been drinking it.”

Embiid has been closely tied to his favorite beverage since he entered the NBA in 2014. He has spoken about consuming pitchers of Shirley Temples, which he has been cutting back. Embiid said he still has one drink “almost every day.” His ingredients of choice are grenadine and ginger ale.

“I used to drink a lot of them,” he said. “But I’ve got to keep my diet.”

The Sixers have launched an All-Star voting campaign for Embiid around his drink of choice. On Wednesday, those at the game can purchase 16-ounce Shirley Temples for $5 at all bar locations in the Wells Fargo Center. 

Robert Covington said Embiid is consistent with ordering a Shirley Temple and a water whenever he gets to a restaurant. Even though Embiid’s love for the drink is well known, he still raises eyebrows when requesting one. The reactions of surprise don't faze him.  

“Everybody looks at me like, ‘What do you mean, Shirley Temples?’” Embiid said. “That’s all I drink. That’s the best drink ever.” 

THAT is the version of Shake Milton the Sixers are expecting

THAT is the version of Shake Milton the Sixers are expecting

Shake Milton had a forgettable night last Saturday. In his first game as the Sixers’ point guard in the new-look starting lineup, Milton struggled on the court and had a heated exchange with Joel Embiid that was caught on camera.

What a difference a day or two can make.

On Monday, Milton looked like a totally different player, hitting a game-winning three with 6.1 seconds left to give the Sixers a wild 132-130 win over the Spurs (see observations).

The second-year guard’s poise has been one his greatest assets early in his NBA career. That’s why that moment in a loss to the Pacers seemed so out of character.

The version of Milton we saw Monday, the guy who was bloodied by an elbow to the mouth a few minutes prior and still hit a clutch shot, seemed more like the player people in Philadelphia have come to know.

“Yeah, and we needed it,” Brett Brown said in a video conference postgame. “Any time a player cannot make stuff up and they react to what the sport says, and he wasn’t guarded, they threw him the ball, and he didn’t think, he just shot it. 

“And Shake, for all of you, I know you’ve interviewed him and you listen to him, it’s quite clear he is an articulate, intelligent young man. And the poise and kind of grace he goes about his business with I think was reflected in that moment. He just was very calm, took a lot of belief in himself and ended up with maybe one of the biggest shots of his career.”

And the first player to find Milton for a high-five at half court after he hit the shot? Joel Embiid, of course.

You can’t make this stuff up.

“I was really happy,” Embiid said. “It’s good to be in that situation and hit the game-winner. I’m extremely happy for him. He’s been working really hard this season and it’s showing off. And that was a big shot he hit — it gave us the win.”

Embiid had another strong outing, posting 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists. 

It’s become a regular occurrence for Embiid to face double teams all game long. It was no different against San Antonio. Just like the Pacers, the Spurs were forced to put out a very small lineup because of injuries. Against both teams, Embiid was decisive and strong with the basketball when the doubles came. In the waning moments of the game, who else would the Sixers go to?

With 10.4 seconds left and Milton inbounding, his man, Dejounte Murray, fronted Embiid in the post while big man Jakob Poeltl stood between Embiid and the rim. Instead of throwing something toward the rim and risking a turnover, Milton got the ball to Al Horford at the top of they key. While Horford looked for a way to try to get the ball to Embiid, Murray took another step closer to the paint.

Then Horford’s eyes went back to Milton, who was left uncovered after inbounding. Milton, who finished with 16 points, took one dribble and calmly hit a dagger.

“It probably was no secret who we wanted to go to,” Brown said. “And just because of that crowd and the fact that you had somebody that could pass the ball in and make a shot proved to win us the game as a result of Shake’s sort of confidence. Because normally a lot of people aren’t going to fall in love with that shot and he didn’t hesitate, and to your point, given his performance in the first game it’s a great way for him to help us get that win.”

The reaction couldn’t have been anymore Milton, either. He strutted back to the Sixers’ bench nodding while his teammates took turns mobbing him.

Even his reaction on social media seemed to perfectly encapsulate the man and the moment.

“Just seeing how much his confidence grows,” Josh Richardson said. “From the beginning of the season to now, he’s a different player. Before the pandemic and everything happened, his confidence was growing at the end of the season.

"Hopefully, we can keep nurturing that, because he’s a young player and there are going to be ups and downs. But if I can stay in his ear, if guys can stay in his ear just to stay positive and keep pushing, I think he’ll be all right.”

Though the 23-year-old had a rough first outing, having Monday’s version of Milton be the starting point guard seems like it might just be crazy enough to work.

Luckily for the Sixers, that version seems much more like the real Milton.

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Shake Milton comes up clutch as Sixers pull out wild win over Spurs

Shake Milton comes up clutch as Sixers pull out wild win over Spurs

Though nothing about the NBA’s restart is typical, one thing we’ve been able to say with confidence about the Sixers throughout this season is that they usually win home games.

Shake Milton's three-pointer from the right wing with 6.1 seconds to go helped the team escape with a 132-130 win over the Spurs on Monday night and make it 30 of 32 “home” victories in the 2019-20 campaign.

After stifling the Spurs' Jakob Poetltl at the rim, the Sixers sealed the win and improved to 40-27. 

The Sixers next play the Wizards on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Here are observations on their wild win Monday: 

A better night from the backcourt 

The starting backcourt of Milton and Josh Richardson that combined for just four points against Indiana had 35 vs. the Spurs.

Richardson (19 points on 5 of 15 shooting) was much more assertive offensively. Instead of using Ben Simmons as a point guard in the Simmons-Richardson-Furkan Korkmaz-Horford lineup, Brett Brown put the ball in Richardon’s hands plenty. It helped Richardson find a rhythm as he hit back-to-back threes in the middle of the first period and had 10 points in the opening frame.  

Milton’s 16-point effort in 26 minutes was an important bounce-back showing, and the clutch shot should decisively shrug off any suggestion that he's not cut out for the starting lineup or major minutes. The 23-year-old scored at all three levels, kept things simple and wasn’t perturbed by ball pressure the way he’d been against the Pacers. 

Though Milton was never in foul trouble for this game, Brown kept Raul Neto in his 10-man rotation. One could argue that Brown should’ve given the effective Milton a few more minutes and perhaps had a nine-man rotation vs. the Spurs. Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) and Mike Scott (right knee soreness) both were out, while Kyle O’Quinn was not eligible to play after missing his coronavirus test Sunday. 

Defense lagging again 

The Sixers’ defense wasn’t sharp to start this game after conceding 46 points in the fourth on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan had little issue getting to his favored spots and scored 11 of San Antonio’s first 17 points. The Spurs started 16 of 26 from the floor and 5 of 7 from three-point range. Simmons was, for the second straight game, noticeably a few rungs below his best. 

San Antonio guards managed to navigate by their men too easily, leaving the defense in a difficult spot. The rotations were not precise when the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter. And, on several occasions, players were simply too slow to close out on three-point shooters. This didn’t look like the team that was sixth in defensive rating before the NBA’s hiatus and seemingly had the potential to be even better.

Brown turned to a zone briefly in the middle of the fourth quarter, but nothing slowed down the Spurs. The Sixers let San Antonio score 43 points in the final period. 

Simmons was limited by foul trouble and didn’t score until he went coast-to-coast after a second-quarter steal.

He fouled out with 2:12 remaining and had eight points and five assists in 25 minutes. 

A solid showing by Horford 

Horford was a minus-26 during the Sixers’ loss Saturday as the 14 minutes without Embiid on the court were a major struggle for the Sixers. 

His performance was improved Monday, and he actually played about two more minutes than Embiid in the first half. On one sequence, he found a cutting Tobias Harris for a layup and then, after a jab step, nailed a three on the Sixers’ next possession.

Both Horford and Embiid did look vulnerable at times when Sixers guards failed to get on top of ball screens. Horford had nine points, six rebounds and two assists. 

Embiid can’t maintain ultra-high level ... but still pretty good

With LaMarcus Aldridge out for the rest of the season after having surgery on his right shoulder, the Spurs are an undersized team. They should’ve been in danger when Poeltl, the only traditional frontcourt player in their starting lineup, picked up two fouls in the first 1:09 and was replaced by Drew Eubanks.

However, Embiid was less aggressive than we’re accustomed to and had only nine points in the first half. He bizarrely had just one rebound in the first two periods after grabbing 21 against the Pacers. To his credit, he was double teamed (and even triple teamed) often and mostly responded well when encountering extra bodies. 

The three-time All-Star found a groove down low in the third quarter on his way to 27 points and nine rebounds. 

Harris’ mentality 

Harris (25 points on 10 of 17 shooting) is a competent mid-range shooter, but Brown wants him “hunting threes” and constantly looking for opportunities to score. 

He’s done exactly that in the Sixers’ first two seeding games and has rarely hesitated once he’s started a downhill drive. He’s more frequently seeking the paint and inviting contact, although a mid-range miss late in the fourth quarter that didn't hit the rim when Harris was guarded by Derrick White was a poor possession. 

Home-court advantage? 

Ron Brooks’ taped rendition of the national anthem was one of the ways the Sixers tried to make this first “home” game in Florida feel something like the Wells Fargo Center. All Sixers again kneeled during the anthem in protest of racial injustice. 

PA announcer Matt Cord also brought his usual energy to a pre-recorded introduction of the Sixers starters.

Cord’s volume and enthusiasm were a bit jarring in an empty arena, but nevertheless a good reminder of the routine heading into a usual home game.

“Sixth man” Alan Horwitz was in virtual attendance and appeared to enjoy the experience.  

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