Joel Embiid constantly gets compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, especially when he breaks out the Dream Shake as he did Monday versus Willie Cauley-Stein. But there’s another player that Embiid has been striving to emulate and he resides in the Eastern Conference.
Embiid told reporters that he worked hard to improve his all-around game after a first-round playoff exit in the Orlando bubble. He welcomes the comparisons to Hall-of-Fame centers like Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Ewing, yet the 7-footer would rather be likened to Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant. In fact, he made a concerted effort to get better shooting off the dribble and becoming a better ball-handler this offseason.
“I’ve always seen myself as just being, you know, like, I don’t know, Kevin Durant,” Embiid told reporters on Monday night. “Just moving all over the place, shooting off the dribble, handling the ball, crossovers, posting up. When we lost in the bubble, I was working out and really focused on shooting off the dribble.”
Like cmon man
— Sixers Nation (36-17) (@PHLSixersNation) April 13, 2021
The All-Star big man also credited new head coach Doc Rivers for installing a system that feeds on his strengths. Embiid didn’t take a direct shot at Brett Brown but draw your own conclusions. He hinted that Brown’s system was forcing him to build fences in the paint, instead of stretching the floor with his long-range shooting.
“Last year, it was a bunch of post-ups,” Embiid said. “This year, the system we have in place is dynamic. They are asking me to be a basketball player — provide offense, or to score, or to pass and facilitate for other guys which I’ve always seen myself as. I’ve never seen myself just being a post player.”
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Embiid: ‘We Want to Win the Championship’
All eyes are firmly planted on Wednesday night’s showdown between the Sixers and Nets. It’s more than likely a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals — all apologies to the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, of course. But Embiid and his teammates continue to downplay the significance of the regular-season matchup. The Sixers are focused on themselves first and foremost.
“Every team is fighting to win the whole thing, that’s what we focus on,” Embiid said. “We’re not focused on one team. If it’s got to be Brooklyn and we want to win the championship, we got a bunch of teams we got to get through and Brooklyn might be one of them so that’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on ourselves.”
Embiid’s maturity level has grown so much. MVP would be nice but more important goals: “I’m trying to win a championship so we just got to take it one game at a time, get every single win that we can, and get to the playoffs and try to win the whole thing.” #Sixers #HereTheyCome
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) April 13, 2021
Although the fact that Brooklyn offers a great measuring stick hasn’t been lost on anyone. Remember, the race for the top seed in the East is still up for grabs.
“Can’t wait, can’t wait,” Sixers guard Ben Simmons said. “You know we want to play the best teams to see where we’re at. We look forward to competing against the best.”
Road Warriors Returning Home
The Sixers are finally returning to Philadelphia after two grueling road trips that saw them on planes, trains, and automobiles for 19 out of the last 23 days. They somehow managed to go 8-4 overall during that stretch.
Now they get to stretch out and relax while sleeping in their own beds and enjoying some home-cooking. The Sixers (37-17) prioritized winning road games to start the year, per head coach Doc Rivers, and it’s showed up in a 17-12 road record.
“It was one of our goals. We talked about it before the year started,” Rivers told reporters on Monday. “If we want to be what we want to be, we got to be a good road team. We’re going out on the road, we’re taking care of business, and we take it serious.”
— Monte Givhan (@mgivhan) April 13, 2021