BOSTON, MA – Joel Embiid, and “big.”
If we’ve come to learn much the last three years, it’s that the person and the adjective are closely associated.
Most plain and obvious, of course, is that the 7-foot tall, 260-pounder is a big man. He also boasts big smarts, a big heart, big personality, big-time talent, and perhaps even bigger potential.
The plans the 76ers have for him appear to be pretty big, too.
Tuesday, the organization announced the signing of Embiid to an extension that will keep the center in Sixers’ red, white, and blue through the 2022-2023 season.
“I’m so thrilled to be in this position,” said Embiid. “I want to thank ownership, management, the coaches and most of all the fans, for supporting me throughout this whole process. I love this city and I’m so, so, so, so excited to be spending my next five years here and hopefully the rest of my career, God willing. Trust ‘The Process.’”
The interest in and enthusiasm for continuing an already promising partnership was mutual.
“Since drafting Joel third overall in 2014, he has solidified himself as a pillar in this franchise and to this city,” said Josh Harris, Sixers Managing General Partner. “We have all enjoyed watching the hard work he puts into his game, and the commitment he has for our organization.”
“We’re fortunate to be able to build around a player who possesses such unique, transcendent talent as Joel,” Sixers Co-Managing General Partner David Blitzer said. “The future of this team is bright, and we look forward to having Joel on the floor as a 76er for many years to come.”
The reasons for the franchise making a long-term investment in Embiid were on full display in his 31 games last season. He put up historic numbers amidst a strong Rookie of the Year push, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks in slightly less than 26 minutes per game. Never before in NBA history had a player produced at that rate.
Additionally, Embiid shot a stellar 36.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc (hitting 36 threes), while also converting a dependable 78.3 percent of his attempts from the free throw line.
Between his massive impact on the court, and the magnetic aura he constantly carries with him off it, the 23-year old has shown all the signs of being a complete package.
“Joel Embiid is a transformative young talent that you rarely come across in our game,” said Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo. “Joel is only scratching the surface, but he has all the potential and promise to go down as one of the all-time greats to wear a Sixers jersey.”
Colangelo, in a statement, praised team ownership for its “collective belief” in Embiid, further reflecting the group’s dedication to establishing a “championship-level basketball program.”
Ask Brett Brown about Embiid, and the head coach sounds like he has a hard time containing his respect and admiration. Such was the case Monday at TD Garden in Boston.
“In the time that he has been on the floor we have seen him to change completely the gym,” said Brown. “He does it with just his physical presence, he does it with a defensive mindset, and he does it with an offensive target that is different than anything else we have.”
Since Embiid has been under Brown’s watch, the two men have gone through a lot together. Brown, however, nearing the end of his second decade in the NBA, has seen enough in the league to trust what his eyes and instincts are telling him.
“He is a difference maker,” said Brown, a former title-winning assistant in San Antonio. “I’ve been lucky in my Spurs life to anoint others in that category. You don’t give up that tag freely. He has a chance to be great.”
That Embiid has come so far after only picking up hoops in his teenage years leaves Brown that much more impressed with and encouraged.
“He does things on a court that remind me of somebody that’s able to hear music, and just play the song,” said Brown. “He’ll study [Tim] Duncan, [Kevin Durant], or another player, and all of a sudden, it’s a little bit a part of his game. He’s very unique, he’s very unique.”
As jaw-dropping as his combination of power, athleticism, and finesse is on the offensive end, statistics point to Embiid boasting game-changing prowess defensively. He manufactured a stellar 99.1 defensive rating a season ago, while defending 41.1 percent of opponents’ attempts at the rim.
Beyond his contributions on the hardwood, Embiid has clearly been an engaged citizen during his time in Philadelphia. Sincere, authentic, and humorous by nature, he’s cultivated an enormous following, one that he genuinely seems to appreciate.
Embiid joined the Sixers for Wednesday’s practice in Boston, and will remain with the team for the duration of its week-long pre-season road trip.