SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Joel Embiid will be in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend, of this we can all be assured.
The 76ers rookie is a lock to be the headliner of the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 17. But there's a bigger question lingering: Should Embiid be playing in the all-star game of Feb. 19?
He's already among the most feared players in the game, and has the numbers heading into Monday night's tilt with the Sacramento Kings – 18.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 41.4 three-point percentage – to back up any all-star campaign. Embiid would be tied for third in the NBA in blocked shots if he had played in 70 percent of the Sixers' games. However, he missed nine games mostly to rest his right foot after surgeries in each of the last two seasons.
"If it's possible, it would be great [to make the All-Star Game] and especially as a rookie, that would be exciting. That'd be great," said Embiid, whose squad lost 102-100 to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at Golden 1 Center.
Teammate T.J. McConnell said Embiid deserves to be an all-star. The Sixers have the league's worst record at 7-23. McConnell doesn't think they would have won many games without him.
"He's in my mind carried us for most of this year," McConnell said. "I think he definitely deserves to be in the All-Star Game."
Sixers coach Brown was asked if the 7-foot-2, 275-pounder deserved to be considered an all-star this season. Before the reporter could get all his words out, Brown cut him off.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he is a serious consideration for that," Brown said. "I mean he hasn't done much wrong for him not to be legitimately considered for that game."
Reserve center Nerlens Noel agreed.
"He's putting up great numbers across the board," Noel said. "He definitely should be in that conversation."
The NBA has used fan voting to select the All-Star Game starters since the 1974-75 season. However, this season, current players and a panel of media members will also have a say.
The fans will account for 50 percent on the vote. Players and media will each make up 25 percent.
There have been 45 rookies who have been selected to the All-Star Game. Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffins, in 2011, was the last rookie to accomplish the feat.
Yao Ming (Houston Rockets, 2003), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, 1998), Grant Hill (Detroit Pistons, 1995), Shaquille O'Neal (Orlando Magic, 1993), Dikembe Mutombo (Denver Nuggets, 1992), David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs, 1990), Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks, 1986), Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls, 1985) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, 1985) were the previous nine rookies selected to the All-Star Game.
Embiid is getting a lot of support on social media for his quest of making the All-Star Game. Embiid is a All-Star, Send Embiid to NOLA, #NBAVote Joel Embiid,Vote4JoJo, and Vote Jojo #NBAVote are among the Twitter handles created by fans to encourage fans to vote for him.
"The fans have been [great] . . . and I love it," Embiid said.
However, he and Brown both admitted that they didn't see him being a possible all-star candidate at the start on the season.
Embiid actually thought he would come off the bench and play around 20 minutes a game.
"Coming in, I thought I was just going to come in and not play a lot, and just get my feet wet," he said.
Brown was expecting more than that. He knew Embiid had a chance to be special. The coach realized that during his one-on-one battles with Noel in the summer time. Brown also saw a competitive side and a desire to be great.
The positives have been adding up over the months. Monday night marked his 21st game of the season.
"You leave an arena," said Brown, "you leave a practice and you leave all the games we played, saying I haven't seen that."
Nor has Kings coach Dave Joerger, who praised the big man following Monday night's game. Embiid finished with a team-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks and one assist. His lone blemish was his eight turnovers.
"He's terrific," Joerge said. "It should be illegal to be that big and that skilled at the same time. He's got a terrific future ... The sky is the limit. Goodness gracious is he good. He's really good.