Joel Embiid's performance on Sunday in the Sixers' 108-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets was the kind of game that makes you forget about all of the other issues and simply enjoy watching a beast do work.
He really did it all. Post moves, pull ups, threes, some work on the boards. And of course diving a couple of rows deep into the stands in an attempt to keep a play alive.
It has to be a terrifying sight to see the 7-foot-2 Embiid flying in your direction. But Embiid would have it no other way. In fact, he said after the game that a certain Hall of Famer helped him develop the mindset of giving your all every single time out on the court.
"I think I stepped on his shoulder. I'm sorry for that person," Embiid said of the person he landed on.
"I'm going to give my all every time I'm out on the court. That's what I think I've been doing. Just play hard. One thing [Allen Iverson] kind of helped me with that, 'play every game like it's your last game.' And I think that's what I think I've been doing."
Brett Brown certainly sees the effort.
"I'm proud of him. I love it. I love it. After you love it, you're looking to make sure he's getting up healthy."
Three weeks ago, even relatively devout 76ers fans could be forgiven for not recognizing the name Shawn Long. You might've recalled his pretty strong showing for the Sixers at Summer League last July, and if you were on the press mailing list for the Delaware 87ers -- lucky you -- you might have noticed him popping up in a lot of "LONG'S 22 HELPS SEVENS DOWN RED CLAWS" type headlines. But however D-League dominant-he was, it seemed unlikely he'd factor into a Sixers season where the team already had four young, high-upside centers on the roster.
Then of course of those four bigs, one of 'em got surgery, one of 'em got traded and one one of 'em got hurt (and/or maybe just stinks). So with 20 games to go, Shawn Long was called up to the Sixers, posting 13 and seven in garbage time a blowout loss to the Bucks at home. That seemed likely to be the meaningless highlight of a nothing Sixers campaign for Long, but as Okafor keeps missing games with knee issues, Long has continued to be productive in picking up the slack. And last night, he had his best game of the season, posting 18 and 7 in just 19 minutes against the Chicago Bulls.
Long's per-36 numbers, already decently absurd before last night's 117-107 Sixers victory -- just can't help ourselves beating these garbage teams -- are now downright hilarious: 25 and 14, shooting 67% from the floor, with a 28.5 PER The sample size is still too small (92 minutes) to mean anything considerable, and at this point in the season it's hard to trust any numbers being put up by anyone. But it's especially notable on these Sixers, who have seen such similar high-efficiency offensive production from Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and (most recently) Richaun Holmes before the beginning of Longsanity.
It's hard not to start wonder if playing center on this Sixers team is kind of like being a running back for a team with an impenetrable offensive line, or being a ground-ball pitcher on a team with an all-Golden Glove infield. It seems like as long as our big can roll to the hoop, catch the ball and crash the boards off misses, playing with pass-first point guards like T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez in Brett Brown's increasingly coherent half-court offense ensures at least above-average production from our five-man. (Unless, of course, that center was taken with the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, in which case such context doesn't seem to help a ton.)
Or maybe the Sixers just have a better eye for young centers than Drake does for European slang he half-understands. Either way, the Sixers' ability to get such consistent contributions so far down their depth chart is one of the biggest reasons they seem practically certain to win 30 games one year after barely scrapping their way to double-digits. This season really just never stops being incredible for one reason or another, does it?
We thought T.J. McConnell learned.
Remember? Pouring water on Dario Saric is not a good idea?
Yeah, thought that was clearly understood after one Sunday in January.
But McConnell was at it again on Friday night after his buddy Saric poured in a career-high 32 points during a 117-107 win over the Bulls. Just like last time, McConnell struck during Saric's postgame interview with CSN's Molly Sullivan.
And, just like last time, Saric looked like he wanted to destroy his point guard.
Look at it unfold ...
But Saric remembered his mantra: Trust the Friendship.
For the postgame moment, watch below. For highlights from Saric's career night and the full interview, watch the video above.