Fans love ‘The Process’
Embiid gives 76ers reason to expect better times
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.
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.