Fans love ‘The Process’

Em­biid gives 76ers rea­son to ex­pect bet­ter times

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SPORTS - BY DAN GEL­STON ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADEL­PHIA — The head­line reads like it was ripped straight from a fake news web­site: Philadel­phia 76ers win for fourth time in five games!

The ve­rac­ity of that claim has been ver­i­fied — the Six­ers, yes those topflight tankers that made a sham of com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball — are ac­tu­ally win­ning games. So what? Time to dance ! Joel Em­biid would not let a sprained left an­kle stop him from bust­ing a move on the court. He crashed the 76ers dance team’s postgame cel­e­bra­tion and flailed his arms in the air like one of those wacky, wav­ing in­flat­able air dancers stuck at car deal­er­ships. Em­biid was all smiles af­ter the Six- ers ral­lied from 10 down with 2:29 left to beat the New York Knicks on T.J. McCon­nell’s jumper at the horn.

Em­biid, a so­cial me­dia dar­ling, has hit the “like” but­ton on Philly’s fu­ture. “Play­off time, baby,” Em­biid said. Hold up. Don’t down­load those post­sea­son tick­ets just yet. Em­biid, the 7-foot cen­ter with an affin­ity for Shirley Tem­ples, has added a splash of fun in his long-de­layed rookie year and has at least made the Six­ers com­pelling this sea­son.

Em­biid has gen­er­ated the kind of buzz through his celebrity crushes (hello, Rhi­anna!) and celebrity fans (hi, Mike Trout!), and he’s be­come the Ellen of the 76ers with a vic­tory dance in big mo­ments.

Be­cause of Em­biid, the Six­ers are fi­nally find­ing those big mo­ments.

Even with play­ing-time re­stric­tions forced on him, Em­biid has helped the Six­ers win 11 times this sea­son, one more win al­ready than all of last sea­son. Em­biid has played in 26 of 36 games and leads the Six­ers in scor­ing (19.4 ppg), blocks (60), re­bounds (7.5), and hit 29 3-point­ers. His 52 as­sists have helped the team PA an­nouncer pro­claim, “the feed from Em­biid” at times in the Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

Al­ready a fan fa­vorite be­fore he played a game, Em­biid had adopted “The Process” as a nick­name and is in­tro­duced as such as part of the pre game lineup fes­tiv­i­ties. Em­biid waves his arms and ex­horts fans to

get louder as they ch ant “Trust the Process!” — the hack­eyned nick­name coined un­der the old Sam Hinkie era when tank­ing games (not win­ning them) was the theme of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Rookie of the year would be great ,” Em bi ids aid .“I don’t think it’s go­ing to help me to get to my crush. Hope­fully, the All-Star (bid) gets to do that.”

The Six­ers have or­ches­trated a so­cial me­dia push to get Em biid into the All-Star game. Em­biid has long been a fan of Shirley Tem­ples, the al­co­hol-free con­coc­tion of le­mon-lime soda, grena­dine and a maraschino cherry, and the Six­ers sold the drink as part of a pro­mo­tional push to get him an All-Star spot.

Em­biid was fourth among front court play­ers with 457,300 fan votes in the lat­est round of All-Star to­tals re­leased Thurs­day. He needs to crack the top three to earn an Eastern Con­fer­ence start­ing spot and was 16,028 votes shy of Cleve­land’s Kevin Love for third. Cleve­land’s LeBron James and Mil­wau­kee’ s Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo hold the top two spots.

As pro­tec­tive of the Six­ers have been of Embi id’ s health, the team still wants him in the All-Star game.

There’s still a harsh re­al­ity check fac­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion as it moves closer to­ward the Feb .23 trade dead­line. T he Six­ers still have one too many start­ing cen­ters and the Em­bi­idJahlil Okafor com­bi­na­tion was a flop. Okafor, the No. 3 over­all pick in the 2015 draft and last sea­son’s lead­ing scorer has been benched. He sat against the Knicks for his fourth DNP-CD in the last six games.

“I’m just try­ing to do my part to make sure it all works out,” Okafor said.

Ner­lens Noel has been solid and the best bet to team at power for­ward with Em­biid. Er­san Ilyasova had made every­one bet­ter and was a ma­jor coup for team pres­i­dent Bryan Colan­gelo. Ben Sim­mons, the No. 1 over­all draft pick, has been strong in his come­back.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Philadel­phia 76ers’ Joel Em­biid, right, and Philadel­phia 76ers’ T.J. McCon­nell cel­e­brate af­ter McCon­nell’s game-win­ning bas­ket Wed­nes­day against the New York Knicks. Em­biid has brought a new spirit to the 76ers.

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