To Joel Embiid, the Sixers’ Christmas Day win on Monday was another sign that “the process” is paying off.
“After what we’ve been through the past four years, I was so excited [today] because we’ve been through so much losing,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 105-98 win over the Knicks. “…. To be able to be one of the few teams in the league to play on this day — it just shows you how much we’ve improved.”
Embiid had 25 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks to help Philadelphia (15-18) snap a five-game losing streak.
“That was my first time playing in the Garden, and when I go on the road I love putting on a show,” said Embiid, whose 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter led to some “Trust The Process” chants at Madison Square Garden. “I felt like we had a lot of fun tonight. We can play much better than that, but we got the win.”
JJ Redick added 24 points, and T.J. McConnell had 15 points off the bench in Philadelphia’s first Christmas Day game in 16 years. The Knicks (17-16) left the court impressed by Embiid and the young Sixers.
“[Embiid is at] an All-Star level, and I think he’s doing a really good job,” said Enes Kanter, who had 31 points and 22 rebounds while matched up at times against Embiid. “I think if he stays healthy, he’s going to be one of the best big men in the league.”
Embiid missed his first two seasons with foot injuries and was limited to 31 games last season because of a meniscus injury. Over those three seasons, Philadelphia lost an average of 63 games in an effort to build through the draft — a plan implemented by former president and general manager Sam Hinkie the season before that was eventually dubbed “the process.”
With Embiid healthy and surrounded by a talented young core that includes Ben Simmons and 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz (sidelined with a shoulder injury), the Sixers have become known for progress more than process this season.
Embiid is among the top 15 in the NBA in scoring (23.7), rebounding (10.9) and blocks (2.0), establishing himself as one of the league’s top big men when healthy. The 23-year-old had missed the Sixers’ previous three games with a back injury, but the team deemed Embiid healthy enough to play shortly before tip-off on Monday.
“I want to stay on the floor, I want to be on the floor,” Embiid said afterward. “If it’s not something that’s going to really, really bother me, I’m going to play.”