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Sixers’ Joel Embiid sorely misses trash talk | Off the Dribble

“I haven’t done it enough all season,” he said of playing to the crowd. “I have not been having fun like usually, just mainly because I am still trying to figure it out, make it work and all that stuff.”

Joel Embiid roars after making a third-quarter basket against the Nuggets.
Joel Embiid roars after making a third-quarter basket against the Nuggets.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The 76ers have continued to feed off their crowd, with the latest example being a 97-92 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers (18-7) are 13-0 at home and join Miami and Boston as the only unbeaten home teams in the NBA. They have won seven of their last eight.

The team has off from practice on Wednesday, but will watch film and then travel to Boston for Thursday’s matchup with the Celtics, who are 10-0 at TD Garden and 17-5 overall entering Wednesday’s game in Indiana.

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Embiid yearns for those trash-talking days

Joel Embiid was at his introspective best after the win over Denver. During the game, after making a big play, the center played to the crowd, urged fans to cheer even louder. They obliged.

After the game, asked how that felt, he turned downright serious.

“I haven’t done it enough all season,” he said of playing to the crowd. “I have not been having fun like usually, just mainly because I am still trying to figure it out, make it work and all that stuff.”

It turns out that one of the parts of his game that has been MIA is trash-talking and Embiid sorely misses it.

After being suspended for two games for an altercation with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns in the Sixers’ 117-95 win over the Timberwolves on Oct. 30, Embiid said he did an about-face on trash-talking.

“The fight happened and we had good momentum, and from there we kind of lost it and lost a couple of games," Embiid said. “I am not trying to be a distraction, but that is part of my game. And I feel that me losing that part [trash-talking] has kind of taken a toll.”

It sounds as if he would like to bring it back to his game.

“It goes back with me being mature and one of the biggest parts of my game is having fun and by having fun means talking trash, but that part has kind of been cut so I just need to be myself and I guess do whatever I want,” he said. “Because when I am having fun, I dominate. But this year, I don’t know, I could probably count on one hand how many times I have done it.”

He emphasized that winning is the main priority, whether it includes the extracurricular activity or not.

“Sometimes I might be childish and do whatever I want to, but any day I care about winning," Embiid said. "Everybody knows that: I do what it takes to win. I care about my teammates. I care about the organization. I care about being a role model.”

So for now, the new Embiid will continue to surface. It’s not as if he is having a poor year, just not as strong as last season. Still, he is averaging 22 points and 12.4 rebounds.

“Everybody told me I need to be, from fans to everybody else, I got to be mature," Embiid said. “I don’t think it is working, but I will keep doing it.”

Starting five

  1. Here are David Murphy’s observations from the Sixers’ win over Denver.

  2. After missing six games with a hamstring injury, Sixers guard Josh Richardson was excited to return.

  3. Here are the latest Inquirer NBA power rankings.

  4. Embiid and Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the two top centers last season, are not playing to that level this year.

  5. I write that the Sixers were impressive in Sunday’s win over Toronto, except for the final three minutes.

Grant remembers the lean times

Remember the tanking years with the Sixers?

Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant certainly does. Grant was a second-round choice of the Sixers in 2014 out of Syracuse and played a little more than two years with the team before being traded to Oklahoma City.

During his first year, the Sixers went 18-64. The second year, 2015-16, they sank to 10-72.

He was traded in November 2016 to Oklahoma City, which dealt him to Denver this past summer. Grant was happy to get game experience in Philadelphia, but the losing took its toll.

“It is definitely tough to lose in any situation. Losing is tough for me mentally and physically,” he said Tuesday morning after Denver’s shootaround. “At the same time, you have to do your job and do what it takes.”

Grant, who is averaging 9.2 points in 22 minutes for Denver, says what was toughest during the lean years with the Sixers was being seriously out-manned.

“We were tanking,” he said. “You know what comes with that. Obviously, they were not going to build a roster that was trying to win games.”

That said, he loved playing in front of the Philadelphia fans.

“The fans were great,” he said. “They definitely bring a lot of energy, especially now since they are winning. They bring a lot of positive energy, and I always look forward to playing here."

Next five

Tomorrow: Sixers at Boston, 8 p.m., TNT

Friday: Pelicans at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sunday: Sixers at Brooklyn, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Dec. 18: Miami Heat at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Dec. 20: Dallas at Sixers, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN

Passing the rock

Question: What do the players really think of Brett Brown? — Jim Geene @thegeneral12341

Answer: Thanks for the question, Jim, and for being a dedicated newsletter reader. I will go back to last season and the day after the Sixers were eliminated in Game 7 at Toronto. The players held their season-ending press conferences and most were asked of Brown, who was perceived to be on shaky ground. One player after another gave him a ringing endorsement.

Now I know you will ask, what were they going to say publicly? But these were impassioned responses. That Embiid and Ben Simmons spoke passionately about Brown, in my opinion, helped him keep his job.

That’s not to say everybody is in step with the coach. All coaches have detractors, and to suggest Brown doesn’t would be short-sighted. I think the players like playing for him, and like the fact that he has their backs.

Of course, get back to me if the Sixers suffer a prolonged losing streak, because anytime they lose one game, I get plenty of emails.