He played just 12 minutes in the first half of the first preseason game, but Sixers star Joel Embiid has already begun to live up to the immense hype. Sixers fans waited two full seasons for Embiid’s debut, and after a timid first four minutes, the 7 ft. 2 in. center made his presence felt on both ends of the floor.
That is not a rookie move. Notice the shimmy, the turn, the touch. This is going to be fun.
That was Embiid’s first career bucket, albeit in a preseason game and after a few missed shots and a turnover. He played three four-plus minute sessions in the first half. And while the start was a way for him to shake off the years of rust, in his second span he looked like the best player on the floor. And the Celtics are really good.
Embiid finished the first half against the Celtics 2-for-6 from the floor, adding two free throws for six points to go along with four rebounds — two on the offensive end of the glass and two on defense — and two blocks.
Oh, yeah. He’s a shot blocker, alright.
Embiid was to be restricted to 12 minutes before the game, and ended up playing 12:57, all in the first half. He struggled when faced with a double-team by the Celtics’ bigs, something that happened almost every time he touched the ball in the low block — a sign of respect for the rookie, for sure. Embiid needs to pass out of the double-team faster, but his teammates also need to learn where to be when he faces the extra defender.
Speaking of teammates, it wasn’t just Embiid’s long-awaited debut. While Ben Simmons recuperates from “successful” foot surgery — in sports parlance a successful surgery is any operation in which the patient doesn’t die or have an appendage amputated — another rookie, Dario Saric, has a very good start to his Sixers career.
Saric was 3-for-5 with eight points in the first half, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He had five first-half rebounds and a few really nice passes, though his teammates haven’t yet caught up to his court vision, which led to at least half of his four turnovers. Saric finished the game with 10 points on 4-for-6 from the floor.
In all, the Sixers looked overmatched by a good Celtics team at times, and fought hard to get back into the game at other times. Down by as many as 15 against the first unit, the Sixers came back to win 92-89. This is a work in progress, especially without Ben Simmons. But winning a ton of games is not what this season, and surely this contest, is about. If the first half of the first preseason game was about one thing, it was the future, and with Embiid and Saric, that future looks pretty darn bright.