Earlier in the season, during a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves, years of showboating and trash-talking between star big men Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns finally came to a boiling point. The two engaged in a brief but quite physical altercation on the court, resulting in a pair of suspensions.
Since that incident (October 30th), Embiid has seemingly taken a new approach to the game. Less barking at the opposition, fewer hard fouls, less complaints to officials, and an overall decrease in his usual fiery antics.
During this time period, it was clear to fans that JoJo was “holding back” to a degree. He even appeared somewhat disinterested at points. Two notable moments that stand out are when he put up a goose egg (0 points) against the Toronto Raptors, and when Nikola Jokic dominated him in a fourth-quarter collapse against the Denver Nuggets.
Embiid was asked about this phenomena following Tuesday nights revenge win over Denver, and responded by talking about how since the fight he’s been trying to be less of a “distraction” on the court. Embiid expanded upon this claiming it hasn’t been working and that he’s personally not having as much fun during games. (Source: John Clark of NBCS)
While some may point to this as a sign of immaturity, the solution here is pretty clear. Let Joel be Joel. Not only is Embiid a generational talent at the center position, but he’s a natural leader and someone guys can rally behind. When Embiid is engaged, everyone is engaged. The best way to get Embiid to be 100% focused during the regular season is to encourage his use of antics.
Fights and suspensions are unacceptable, and Embiid does need to understand that line. However, plenty of all-time great NBA players thrived off talking a little smack (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, etc.).
Embiid is a trash talker and an entertainer, that’s just who he is. Let the big man do his thing.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports