Centerpiece of The Process

The Six­ers are the talk of Philly thanks to a rook­ie star who is draw­ing MVP chants on a nightly basis. 

Joel Em­biid turned in an all-star caliber per­form­ance last week against the Hou­s­ton Rock­ets, with 32 points, sev­en re­bounds and two blocks. Pho­tos Cour­tesy of NBAE

If you are stuck sit­ting for two years wait­ing to see if you are go­ing to be an NBA star or a trivia ques­tion, you had bet­ter have a sense of hu­mor. If you are wait­ing to see if the two sur­ger­ies on your foot were suc­cess­ful, and wheth­er you have a chance to be a house­hold name or earn a per­man­ent spot on an “NBA draft busts” fea­ture, you need to be able to roll with the punches.

Six­ers rook­ie cen­ter Joel Em­biid has dis­played both qual­it­ies as he has turned the Six­ers from a team liv­ing in the “Dark Side” to a team that is pack­ing aren­as. He is not only the talk of the town, but the en­tire coun­try.

Em­biid has his own na­tion of fans. Vir­tu­ally every home game he plays in draws chants of “M-V-P” and “Trust the Pro­cess,” a phrase used to con­vince fans not to lose faith over the three pre­vi­ous sea­sons of tank­ing.

Em­biid has nick­named him­self “The Pro­cess,” as a per­man­ent re­mind­er of how he ended up in Phil­adelphia. His fol­low­ing is pas­sion­ate and not just lim­ited to Phil­adelphia.

“It has been great, it’s amaz­ing,” Em­biid said re­cently. “That’s something, last year, that’s something I nev­er thought was go­ing to hap­pen. I nev­er felt we would be win­ning so many games in a row.

“What I am try­ing to build, I’m try­ing to change the cul­ture,” Em­biid con­tin­ued. ”I like to get in­to it with the fans. I don’t like it quiet, I play bet­ter when the fans are in­to it, chant­ing M-V-P, chant­ing for us. That’s what I love.”

In Bo­ston, Celt­ics fans are known to take to great play­ers on oth­er teams like former Six­ers great Ju­li­us Erving. That group, at a re­cent game in Bo­ston, chanted “Trust the Pro­cess” to  show its ap­pre­ci­ation for the rook­ie who pos­ted a line of 23 points, eight re­bounds, three as­sists and two blocked shots in just 26 minutes.

“All I can say is it’s amaz­ing,” Em­biid said. “Even on the road you hear ‘Trust the Pro­cess’ chants. I feel like every­body around the world is start­ing to fol­low us and trust the pro­cess. The fans have been great. I’m glad we’re win­ning games for them and the city.”

The Six­ers have com­piled an 11-5 mark since Dec. 30 (the re­cord does not in­clude last night’s game against the Mav­er­icks). They have earned that re­cord without the ser­vices of Ben Sim­mons, the No. 1 over­all pick who has been out the en­tire sea­son deal­ing with a foot in­jury.

One reas­on Em­biid be­lieves they have turned it around is head coach Brett Brown’s abil­ity to get his team on the same page.

Early in the sea­son, sev­er­al Six­ers in­clud­ing Jah­lil Oka­for and Ner­lens Noel,  were not shy about ex­press­ing their con­cerns over their play­ing time, the lack of it, and their roles.

But over the last few months, Em­biid said Brown has been able to make it work, and with that came the wins.

“It’s good,” Em­biid said. “Be­fore the sea­son, I had a con­ver­sa­tion with coach (Brown). One of the main things I brought up was about every­body know­ing his role and com­ing to­geth­er, es­pe­cially de­fens­ively. Every­body is bond­ing to the sys­tem, and we’re start­ing to win some games.”

The Six­ers re­cently de­feated two 30-win teams. Over the last three years, the Six­ers were more likely to be down by 30 go­ing in­to the fourth quarter.

The Six­ers beat a healthy Toronto Rap­tors team 94-89, hold­ing a squad that was av­er­aging more than 109 points per game to well be­low its av­er­age.

ldquo;It’s great,” Em­biid said. “That gives us a lot of con­fid­ence com­ing in­to the next game. We beat a team with the second best re­cord in the East. It’s amaz­ing and we’re go­ing to keep on work­ing. Like I said, every­body is bond­ing to the sys­tem and coaches.  They’re do­ing a great job. Coach Brown, coach (Lloyd ) Pierce, coach (Billy) Lange and all the coaches, they’ve been do­ing their job of pre­par­ing us.Every­body has bought in and we’re play­ing good bas­ket­ball. We’re go­ing to try and build on that.”

Em­biid was asked what people know about the Six­ers now that they are hav­ing suc­cess in 2017.

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Em­biid said. “We’re com­pet­ing, win­ning games and we’re play­ing good de­fense. We’ve fi­nally found what we’re look­ing for. At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, every­body was try­ing to find them­selves, es­pe­cially me. This is just the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer, so I still have a lot to learn, and I am will­ing to learn. Every­body, my team­mates are will­ing to learn. We’re just now com­ing to­geth­er.”

Em­biid has played an av­er­age of just 25.4 minutes per game after 31 games. Still, his num­bers are All-star team level: 20.2 points per game, 7.8 re­bounds, 2.1 as­sists and 2.5 blocks.

He was not se­lec­ted to the All-Star re­serves des­pite fin­ish­ing in the top three in fan vot­ing among cen­ters in the East.

“Once again the pop­u­lar vote didn’t mat­ter …” he joked on his Twit­ter page. The 7-foot, 250-pound­er will be play­ing in the BBVA Com­pass Rising Stars Chal­lenge dur­ing NBA All-Star week­end.

Brown has been quoted as say­ing his Six­ers are a five-year pro­cess in the works.  Em­biid was asked if he be­lieves that num­ber is wrong now that the team seems to have turned a corner.

“Def­in­itely,” Em­biid said without hes­it­a­tion. “Play­ing games like that (Toronto, Clip­pers) shows it.  We don’t even have Ben (Sim­mons) back yet, and Jah (Jah­lil Oka­for) hasn’t been able to get minutes, and Jah is really good. So there is a lot of tal­ent here still wait­ing for their turn. I think we are closer than people think we are.”