CHICAGO — Happy Monday, folks.

The 76ers were represented well when Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis, 157-155, in Sunday night’s All-Star Game at the United Center. Joel Embiid showed why he’s the league’s best center while starting for Team Giannis. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons was a standout reserve for Team LeBron.

Now, the duo gets two days off before the Sixers (34-21) begin post-All-Star break practice on Wednesday.

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— Keith Pompey (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Embiid’s ready to dominate

Embiid is in a much better situation compared to 12 months ago.

“I’m fine,” the Sixers center said after the All-Star Game.

He didn’t wear the splint on his left hand Sunday. It marked the first time he played without it since returning from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger.

“I’m healthy,” he added. “I’m great. My hand feels good. So far, we’re good.”

Embiid had just finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the All-Star loss. He had talked about being dominant in the remaining 27 regular-season games.

“I’m excited,” Embiid said. “Like I’ve been saying the last couple days, [there’s] a different side of me. You know in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, I showed it.

“Hopefully going to back to the Sixers, just being that guy, taking over, just doing my job and just being dominant.”

Embiid, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter Sunday, appears to be trending in the right direction. He is feeling better than at this time a year ago, after appearing in the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte. Back then, Embiid was hampered by tendinitis in his left knee. He missed 14 of the team’s final 24 regular-season games and Game 3 of the opening-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I’m excited,” Embiid said. “It’s going to be a fun ending to the season.”

Joel Embiid warming up during practice at the NBA All-Star Game on Saturday.
David Banks / AP Photo
Joel Embiid warming up during practice at the NBA All-Star Game on Saturday.

Starting five

Leonard’s take on playing with Lakers

You knew the question would be asked, especially after Kawhi Leonard was named the All-Star Game’s MVP while playing for Team LeBron.

The Los Angeles Clipper was asked about playing with Lakers standouts LeBron James and Anthony Davis and for their coach, Frank Vogel, in Sunday night’s win. Leonard, who had a game-high 30 points, had strongly considered signing with the Lakers last summer.

“It was fun,” he said. “I played with Bron and A.D. last year [in the All-Star Game], and I think the year before that or so.”

Leonard didn’t make much out of teaming up with the two Lakers. To him, it’s always fun to just get around guys who are very competitive to see what they do on an everyday basis.

“Just talking, just being their teammate,” he said. “We go at each other all year round, and just, like I said, it’s great to be able to pick their brain and just be around them and joke and laugh.”

LeBron James (center) celebrates with James Harden of the Rockets and Kawhi Leonard (right) during the second half of the NBA All-Star Game.
Nam Huh / AP
LeBron James (center) celebrates with James Harden of the Rockets and Kawhi Leonard (right) during the second half of the NBA All-Star Game.

Important dates: Next Five Flow

Thursday: Brooklyn Nets at Sixers, 8 p.m., TNT

Saturday: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Feb. 24: Atlanta Hawks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV

Feb. 26: Sixers at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Feb. 27: New York Knicks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Passing the rock

Send questions by email or on Twitter (@pompeyonsixers)

Questions: 1. Sixers are spending $100 million for someone to sit on the bench. 2. Brett Brown’s system (shooting 3s) is the reason why [Al] Horford doesn’t fit well on this team. If the new method doesn’t work who is to blame? — GroundTrader (@GroundTrader) on Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the great question. I think both front office and the coaching staff will get blamed if the Horford acquisition doesn’t work out better. Some folks will blame Brown for not putting Horford in favorable situations.

The five-time All-Star has had a successful career as a facilitator from the post. He also strives on pick-and-pop plays. However, he has been shooting a lot of three-pointers in the Sixers’ system and has done a poor job at it.

The front office acquired him to be the starting power forward and backup center to Embiid. Yet, their pairing in the starting lineup has been a struggle. This is the first season of the four-year, $97 million deal Horford received last summer. That’s a lot of money for someone who could essentially spend the rest of his time in Philly as Embiid’s backup.

Sixers forward Al Horford getting instruction from coach Brett Brown.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Sixers forward Al Horford getting instruction from coach Brett Brown.