PHILADELPHIA — Brett Brown has plenty of experience dealing with Joel Embiid‘s social media posts.
So, after the All-Star center’s latest foray into that space Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers coach did his best to downplay any significance in Embiid’s resurfacing of his beef with the fans.
“Is it ideal? Maybe not,” Brown said before Tuesday night’s game at Wells Fargo Center against the LA Clippers. “Is it Joel? Yes.
“Is there a maverick in a lot of really good players? Yes. And there’s this sort of side of Jo that has always been there. It’s a … playful is probably not the word that best suits this. But it’s that, some phrasing of that.
“We move on. I don’t really have much more to add to that.”
Instead, Brown added more fuel to the fires surrounding his team by opting to move Al Horford to the bench Tuesday night, sliding Furkan Korkmaz into the starting lineup in his place. It was the first time Horford came off the bench since November 2007 — his rookie season in the NBA.
Horford, who was Philadelphia’s prized free-agent signing this summer, has struggled to acclimate to his new surroundings after spending the previous three seasons with the Boston Celtics, and he had his own run-in with the fans Friday when he shushed them during Philadelphia’s blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Embiid, however, took things to another level during Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bulls, getting caught on camera twice during the game telling the fans to “shut up” — with the second time he did so, in the game’s final minute after hitting a 3-pointer, coming with an expletive thrown in for good measure.
After that game, Embiid attempted to downplay the moment, saying, “I mean, I don’t care how it looks. I’m just playing basketball. Just getting back to myself, just being a good a–hole. Just playing basketball and just trying to dominate.”
But then came Monday, when Embiid posted this to Twitter and Instagram:
On his Instagram post, former teammate Jimmy Butler chimed in with, “I know a place where villains are welcome.”
Embiid then replied, “Damn right my brother.”
For his part, Brown simply sounded exasperated about the whole thing before Tuesday’s game, Philadelphia’s final one before the All-Star break.
“I’ve got so much more that I’m thinking about than that,” Brown said. “I’ll go back to my original comment: Is it ideal? No. Am I reading too much into it, will I overreact? Absolutely not. The people who have been around Jo for all of our time should get what motivates him, and I think we’d all be quite surprised if there isn’t a level that we see from Jo tonight. The Philly fans, they bring out the best of him, of us, they keep it very much at a real level. I look forward to seeing him play tonight.”
When Embiid came out onto the court for pregame warm-ups, he signed a couple of autographs and then was cheered by the few fans already in the building.
During pregame introductions, the loudest ovation went to Korkmaz, who fans have been clamoring to have start in place of Horford in recent days. Embiid, meanwhile, was met with a heavy mix of cheers and boos — far from the usual thunderous ovation he receives as the last player introduced here at Wells Fargo Center before games.
Then, on Philadelphia’s opening offensive possession, Embiid cleaned up a miss by Ben Simmons and scored, drawing a foul in the process. The crowd reacted with a loud cheer for Embiid, who reacted by spreading his arms wide and asking for more, as a wide smile crossed his face.
And Brown insisted that Embiid continues to be the leader behind the scenes that his team needs.
“If you were the security camera at our practice facility, you’re going to see him there at 12 at night, 12:30 at night repetitively,” Brown said. “Not so long ago, we see his finger swinging on national TV, and a few weeks later he comes back and has that thing. All of us would be quite naive and maybe never played a lot of basketball to think that doesn’t affect his game.
“Does he step out of bounds with this instance? It’s not ideal, I concede that. Could he be better? We all could. I feel like there’s a little bit of fairness that needs to be extended to him, the ones who know really what has gone on behind closed doors at 12 midnight. Team meetings where things are spoken and said that nobody really is aware of.
“I always want more from myself, from Ben, from Jo, it’s not something that when you asked the question the way you have asked it, that I would answer it any other way than the way I just did. I feel confident and comfortable saying what I just said.”