Even in lim­ited ac­tion, Brown says Em­biid has ‘It’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

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.

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