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Joel Embiid finally makes 76ers debut, two years after being drafted

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Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson, right, guards Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson, right, guards Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Hey, everybody. Joel Embiid played basketball Tuesday night.

Big deal, right? Well, for the 22-year-old center from Cameroon it actually was.

Those familiar with Embiid know of his constant run of ailments dating back to his one-and-done season at Kansas. A back injury robbed the promising young big man of completing his freshman year on the court with the Jayhawks, and days before he became the third overall pick in the NBA Draft he fractured a bone in his right foot.

Before his preseason debut with Philadelphia, Embiid missed two consecutive seasons due to his foot issues. In total, he went 948 days without appearing in a game.

So, yeah, just playing in an otherwise meaningless exhibition seemed significant for Embiid and the 76ers.

"At the beginning, I was pretty nervous," Embiid told reporters after scoring 6 points, grabbing 4 rebounds and blocking 2 shots for the Sixers against Boston. "I think I had trouble breathing, so it was hard. But once I got the first bucket, everything started to slow down. I saw the game easier. I just felt like I was myself again."

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As chronicled by Keith Pompey of The Inquirer, Embiid started for Philadelphia but played on a minutes restriction as the organization eases him into his return to normal life as a basketball player. The big man missed his first three shot attempts before checking out for a breather.

When Embiid returned to the court, he showed off the footwork that so often wowed onlookers when he played for KU before knocking down a fadeaway jumper. Shortly after that, he denied Boston rookie Jaylen Brown at the rim.

"I thought I did better defensively," Embiid said after shooting 2-for-6 and turning the ball over three times. "Offensively, that's going to come. But defensively that was one of my goals, and I think I did better."

Sure to become a hit with the media, the gregarious 7-footer said it caught him by surprise when the Celtics’ defense focused on stopping him in the post.

"I was like, 'That's my first game. Second quarter,’” Embiid said. “‘Y’all really going to double-team, first game, second quarter?’”

The Sixers’ starting pivot said he planned to go back and review video from his debut and learn from the situations in which he felt uncomfortable. Head coach Brett Brown didn’t sound too worried about Embiid afterward.

“In Joel, you see a confidence and a swagger,” Brown said in a Courier Times story.

Brown and the Sixers’ brass limited Embiid to 12 minutes on his long-awaited launch date. The man who hadn’t played a game since KU traveled to Oklahoma State on March 1, 2014, left wanting more.

"Honestly, I thought the 12 minutes I was going to play I was going to score 40 points," Embiid joked (presumably).

None by Joel Embiid

Comments

Dale Rogers 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not much of an NBA fan but I do follow our Jayhawks. I am really looking forward to following Embiid's career.

Joe Wolf 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I felt Joel was the best pure prospect since Anthony Davis coming out of Kansas in 2014. His upside is through the roof if he can stay healthy. It's very rare to see big guys with that kind of touch and mobility, plus his size (including a 9'5'' standing reach) will make him an instant difference maker defensively.

Joe Ross 11 months, 2 weeks ago

If he stays healthy he's going to be a beast.

Steve Zimmerman 11 months, 2 weeks ago

A guy his size can dribble and move easily like that, is a scary beast. I wish him the best in his 'rookie' year! Can't wait to watch him vs AW.

Steve Zimmerman 11 months, 2 weeks ago

BTW, Selden made the winning shot for his team to debut his NBA career. I'm pretty sure he'll find a way to climb up for a bigger role - give him 2-3 years.

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