Last night TNT announced the Eastern Conference coaches went with Paul Millsap instead of Embiid. It’s not the biggest surprise Embiid didn’t make it. Many people speculated Embiid would be left off the roster for two reasons: games missed and minutes played. It’s been written by people way smarter than me as to why Embiid deserves an all-star nod. He’s been one of the five most entertaining players the first half of the season. His existence propelled Philadelphia’s come-from-behind victory last Friday night against Portland. He didn’t play down the stretch for precautionary reasons, but that didn’t matter. Robert Covington made that go-ahead 3-pointer because Embiid wanted him to make it. That sounds stupid, and it most definitely is stupid, but what I mean by that is Embiid playing has given confidence to every single player on the team. Philadelphia never feels like they’re behind. Over the past three years, the 76ers entered every game feeling confident. They’re professional athletes. They trust their abilities, no matter the spread or the opponent. It’s one thing to feel confident but Philadelphia actually now is confident. It’s an action. It’s something that’s done every time Embiid steps on the floor. It’s easy to point to Ersan Ilyasova who has been money this month. He’s a reason why they’ve been successful. But Embiid is the reason.
Credit to Matt Slocum
The term superstar gets thrown around as much as a football at recess. The minute a player does a number of jaw-dropping highlights or puts together a ridiculous stat line, he’s the next superstar. Embiid’s first career basket was beautiful. It happened with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter. He caught the ball at the top of the key and ball faked. Embiid dribbled twice to his right and spun. He gathered himself and swooshed a 16-footer, slightly fading away. The next possession he blocked Russell Westbrook. Embiid arrived.
Calling Embiid a superstar 30 games into his career seems premature. Embiid hasn’t play a back-to-back game. He hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game. Embiid flashed his brilliance early in the opening game, and little by little, he expanded his ability. Early in the season the 76ers lost a close game to Orlando, primarily because Embiid turned the ball over with six seconds left in a tied game. The moment escaped Embiid that November night. Nine days after Embiid blew the Orlando game, Philly won its first game of the season. Embiid missed 12 of his 18 attempts. He committed five turnovers. Embiid scored 25 points that night, missing only two of his 14 free throw attempts. With four minutes left in the fourth, his three-pointer gave Philadelphia the lead. The 76ers amazingly gave up a five-point lead in the final 25 seconds, as Indiana forced overtime. But Embiid made five of six free throws in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime.
Philadelphia won their last two games without Embiid playing. That’s further proof of his impact. TJ McConnell has been a revelation at point guard, Ersan lyasova couldn’t miss in the first half Wednesday against the Bucks and Gerald Henderson put up a season-high 20 points in that same win. Nerlens Noel hit the game winning 12-foot jumper as the shot clock nearly expired. Noel hitting the shot is a credit to hours and hours of hard work, and it should be a reason why Bryan Colangelo has to do everything in his power to keep him instead of Jahlil Okafor. But Embiid, even if he wasn’t with the team physically, has provided a level of confidence in his teammates that’s nearly impossible to describe. Henderson has been a pro for years now. He doesn’t need Embiid to make the big-time shot down the stretch against Milwaukee. But Henderson cannot do it himself, nor can Ilyasova. Embiid changed the culture of Philadelphia. Not veterans, not a general manager change, not loud, exuberant crowds. It’s Embiid. Embiid did it by himself. And even though he didn’t make the game, he’s still an all-star.