Atlanta Hawks

Hawks' John Collins is itching to dunk on Joel Embiid, and you can understand why

Hawks' John Collins is itching to dunk on Joel Embiid, and you can understand why

Remember when Joel Embiid slammed the ball in over John Collins on Oct. 28 in Atlanta, did a little shimmy in Collins’ face and received a technical foul for his exuberant celebration?

We think Collins probably does.

In a Bleacher Report “AMA,” Collins named Embiid as the player he’d most to like to dunk on. 

“We've had back and forth,” he said. “I don't want to get too into it ... but he knows, too. Every time he sees me he says, bro you're not getting me.”

Embiid thought it couldn't hurt to remind Collins of that dunk on Tuesday. 

The Sixers' All-Star center has a history of antagonizing opponents, with Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond and Karl-Anthony Towns among the other players he’s irked.

He had another incident with the Hawks on Feb. 24, the night he scored a career-high 49 points. With the clock ticking down and the Sixers up 17, Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter stole the ball from Embiid as he dribbled it past half court, prompting Embiid to show him the middle finger.  

Though Embiid apologized for the gesture in his postgame interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters and said he wasn’t planning on shooting the ball, he also gave an explanation for his frustration with Huerter. 

"There's always this thing about you shouldn't shoot the ball if you're up 20 or something like that,” Embiid said. “And I feel like it should go both ways. I'm running the clock down and I feel like the game is over. That's why I'm doing it. But to me, if the other team is gonna keep playing defense, and they're gonna keep shooting the ball at the other end, I feel like we should just be like, 'Well, be better next time,' and just go out and score.”

Collins, who had 21 points and nine rebounds in that game, unsurprisingly picked the Sixers as one of the two teams he likes to beat the most.

“The Sixers and the Heat,” he said. “Sixers because [Hawks head coach Lloyd] Pierce used to coach for them, so it's intense. And then Miami, whenever I'm back home I like to put on a show for mom.”

The Sixers had been scheduled to play the Hawks last Saturday, but that game and the NBA season are of course on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, whenever Embiid and Collins do match up again, there’s a history that’s building to keep in mind. 



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Joel Embiid is finding a balance with his duality

Joel Embiid is finding a balance with his duality

A couple weeks ago, Joel Embiid scared the hell out of Sixers fans with his cryptic tweet quoting the Batman villain Two-Face.

It was the same quote used by his friend Jimmy Butler while he was toiling away in Minnesota. In retrospect, the character Embiid was referencing was appropriate.

While Embiid has struggled with his own duality this season, he’s seemed to have found a balance recently as evidenced by his 49-point performance in the Sixers’ 129-112 win Monday (see observations).

I said that I was gonna get back to having fun,” Embiid said. “Having fun comes in different forms. I don't always have to be smiling or laughing all the time. I can have fun just dominating the game. Obviously tonight was just one of those nights where I was having fun like the old days. Just having fun with the crowd. Some nights, I just might want to dominate and stay quiet.

Indeed, Embiid did appear to be having an awful lot of fun out there. Then again, it’s easy to when you’re dominating the way the All-Star center did.

His 49 points were the most scored by a Sixer since Allen Iverson put up 53 against Atlanta on Dec. 23 of 2005. The only other players in franchise history to put up 49 points and 14 rebounds are Hall of Famers, Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain and Dolph Schayes. 

While we’ve known that Embiid is capable of nights like this, there haven’t been as many of these types of performances as there have been in the past. The last time Embiid truly took over a game in the fashion he did against the Nets last week and the Hawks Monday was in a big road win in Boston in mid-December.

You might recall that happened after Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal called Embiid’s effort level out. Embiid admitted then that he wasn’t having as much fun this season as he had in the past. Unfortunately for the Sixers and Embiid, the 25-year-old big man still couldn’t find consistency before suffering a torn ligament in the ring finger on his left hand.

When Embiid returned after a nine-game absence, he still wasn’t quite right. The splint on his left hand was clearly giving him trouble and he was letting it affect other aspects of his game. Embiid said prior to the matchup against the Clippers before the break that he needed to have a different mindset. He proceeded to play well that night.

Though he wanted to clarify his “best player in the world” comments from after the win over Brooklyn — although he kind of didn’t — the All-Star Game seemed to give him a different level of confidence.

What I said was that All-Star Game, fourth quarter, I'm out there with some of the guys that I consider the best players in the world and I'm out there just dominating,” Embiid said. “So to me, I just felt like that was a chance for me to prove that I deserve being in that conversation of being the best player in the world. 

“But like I said tonight, if I play like that every night … I mean, what more can you say? I just gotta keep on doing it. I know I'm not, but I do believe it because I gotta prove it. I gotta win. My goal is to win a championship. That's how you prove that you are the best.

The whole winning thing may be more difficult for at least the foreseeable future. We’re still awaiting an update on Ben Simmons, who irritated a lower back injury on Saturday night in Milwaukee. Simmons is still being evaluated and the team and his representation are working together to decide a course of action, per a team spokesperson.

With Simmons out and the team sitting in fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers are going to need Embiid to play like this over the last 24 games of the season and beyond.

“He knows it more than I can say it,” Brett Brown said. “We talked a little bit about it. With the news on Ben and him not being here, it’s clear he’s gotta come out and he’s gotta play like he did tonight, for the most part. Nobody’s asking him to get 50 every night, but his mentality is the thing that most impressed me. And we saw the same thing against Brooklyn. We’re all going to point to the numbers and this and that. The bottom line is this: When he comes out with that activity, that energy, that mentality, he makes a statistician work and we will win a lot of games.”

So which Embiid can we expect? Whichever version gives the Sixers the best chance to win.

I think I'm finding that balance of sometimes having fun, smiling, and sometimes just being serious and just doing my job, and I can do my job smiling and I can do my job being serious. I don't know. I don't control it. Sometimes I'm gonna mix it, but at the end of the day, whatever gets us the win, that's all I care about.

Harvey Dent. Two-Face. The Process. JoJo.

After a night like Monday, you can just call him dominant.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Joel Embiid explains why he gave Kevin Huerter middle finger in Sixers' win over Hawks

Joel Embiid explains why he gave Kevin Huerter middle finger in Sixers' win over Hawks

Unwritten rules in sports can be tricky. 

While each sport has their own, the one universal rule for all of them revolves around having a big lead and not running up the score.

With a career-high 49 points, Joel Embiid had a chance at 50 with the ball in his hands with less than 24 seconds left and the Sixers holding a 17-point lead. As he passed half court, Embiid didn’t appear to have any intentions of shooting, but the Hawks’ Kevin Huerter was wary of the All-Star center going for 50.

After Huerter stole the ball off him, Embiid had a NSFW gesture in return. He explained his actions postgame:

There's always this thing about you shouldn't shoot the ball if you're up 20 or something like that. And I feel like it should go both ways. I'm running the clock down and I feel like the game is over. That's why I'm doing it. But to me, if the other team is gonna keep playing defense, and they're gonna keep shooting the ball at the other end, I feel like we should just be like, 'Well, be better next time,' and just go out and score. 

After Cam Reddish missed a three, Embiid got the ball again. He wound up dribbling it past half court to run the clock out despite the crowd urging him to go for 50.

Was he tempted instead to hoist another shot?

I thought about it when I had the ball again, but I was like, I'm gonna stay cool. But I feel like it should go both ways. If the team up by 21 is running the clock off, I feel like the other team should also respect it. We just moved on, but it is what it is and we got the win. That's all I care about.

There's been a lot of talk about Embiid not having fun and trying to be mature. It was a mature decision for him not to shoot, but it sure looked like he was having fun.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers