Even in limited action, Brown says Embiid has ‘It’
Brett Brown knew it early, before the first foot injury, before the second. He knew it in the film room, in the individual workouts, in training camp. He knew it. And by Thursday night, he would say it, out loud, before the Sixers’ first home preseason game. Joel Embiid is his guy. This year. Both ends of the court. Both? “I think that he is going to be the focal point, offensively and defensively,” Brown said. “And so once you have that, then you’re world is still centered. It’s still balanced. And you see things through that lens.”
Brown and the Sixers have made similar statements before, insisting Embiid would be a special player. It’s why they drafted him third overall in the 2014 draft, even though he’d complained of back troubles in his one season at the University of Kansas. Even then, the consensus was that Embiid had unique skills and that, when healthy, he would be a sturdy presence on defense. Offense? Maybe.
But even with Embiid remaining on a 12-minute-agame limit in the preseason, and with the Sixers announcing that it would be unlikely that he’d play back-to-back games this season, it was jolting when Brown not only slapped the “focal point” jobspec on Embiid, but when he used a particularly successful recently retired player to bold-face his point.
“It’s what I felt from the first second,” Brown said. “Truly, you see him and he just has ‘It.’ He has ‘It.’ Years ago, you saw it with (Tim) Duncan, with regards to him being a real target offensively and a centerpiece defensively.
“And I think we all know that it is going to take time. But we all get it. Nobody can rush what’s unfair. We’re not going to rush growth. There will be stumbling blocks. But I believe his potential and his desire to be great is real. And I think his talent, if he stays healthy, will allow him to do what I just said.”
Tim Duncan on one side of the street, Peyton Manning, as Doug Pederson casually likened to Carson Wentz, on the other. Who’d have guessed? Before the Sixers’ exhibition game against the Washington Wizards, Embiid was asked about Brown’s suggestion that he would be his “go-to” offensive player. Technically, that’s not what Brown said. He said “focal point” on offense. A player, particularly a center, can be a focal point while not being expected to do the bulk of the scoring. He could draw double-teams, which Embiid did in the preseason opener against the Boston Celtics in Massachusetts, then kick the ball out to more skilled shooters.
Or, it is possible that there can be no interpretation of the concept of the focal point of a team at that side of the court where scoring helps.
Either way, Embiid accepted the challenge.
“I just let the game come to me,” he said. “In practices, I saw that they are different than games. Offensively, in practice, I think I have been doing pretty well. And I think I can be that type of scorer.
“In college, I didn’t have that mentality. I don’t think I reached more than 10 shots during a game. So I think it’s different now. And if Coach wants me to do that, I’ve kind of proven in practice that I can do that. So it’s going to take time. I’m an unselfish player. I want to play as a team.
“We have guys who can score the ball. And I feel very blessed if he said that.”
Even though Joel Embiid’s game action has been limited thus far, 76ers head coach Brett Brown likened his big man to Tim Duncan, saying “he is going to be the focal point, offensively and defensively” of the developing team.