CARSON WENTZ has played 16 games in his rookie season with the Eagles and his potential has more than scratched the interest of sports fans in this city. He certainly has shown flashes of being capable in becoming The Franchise, with his cannon arm - albeit inaccurate at times - ability to escape the pocket and veteran approach to the game. He is a player you most likely can wrap your arms around and ride into the foreseeable future.

Bring up Wentz's name to any football fan in this city and the reaction most likely will be nodding, accompanied by a frown - that "he's going to be OK," approving look.

Joel Embiid played his 23rd game in the NBA on Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. His career has been hindered by a 2 1/2-year layoff from injury and restricted minutes in this, his first season. Still, and despite the fact he just started playing basketball six years ago, there is no question he is the face of the 76ers, maybe of this city's sports landscape, for as many years as he has been playing here.

Bring up Embiid's name to anyone involved in the NBA, and the reaction is mostly the same - a quick smile, a side-to-side shake of the head, eyes closed briefly, deep breath - that "he is something really special," kind of look.

Coach Brett Brown breaks the NBA season down into three segments - up to Christmas, Christmas to the All-Star break, and from there until the end of the season. Pondering on the play of Embiid in the initial third of this season, Brown's reaction was pretty much exactly as described above.

So was Andrew Wiggins'. Asked about his former college teammate at Kansas, the third-year Minnesota swingman on the the brink of stardom laughed and said, "Joe-Joe. He's a monster. He's been a monster since Kansas. He's a good player, a big man that can do stuff that guards do. He's very talented, very gifted."

Smile. Head shake.

It never ends.

The 7-2, 275-pounder has been nothing short of amazing during his limited time in the league so far, which has included double figures in all but one game; seven games of 25 points or more; six games with 10 or more rebounds and a block in all but one contest. All this, and Tuesday night's 93-91 win over the Timberwolves was the first time he's played 30 minutes.

Brown has said that, once minute limitations are scrapped, he sees his center playing about 36 minutes a game. To stretch out his averages this season per 36 minutes, Embiid would be averaging more than 27 points, grabbing close to 11 rebounds and blocking 3.5 shots. Remember, this kid hadn't played an organized basketball before this season since March 1, 2014.

"It's pretty impressive to me," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. "My frame of reference is Derrick Rose in Chicago. It's very difficult in this league to go through one year of not playing. So to go through a second year like that, particularly when you haven't been in the league, that's a tough challenge mentally and he seems to have handled that very well."

Chuckling, he added: "His skill set is very, very impressive. To be able to shoot the ball the way he can, put it on the floor, post up. He's a great talent.

"I think Philly is very fortunate to have a player like that and they have good young players. Unfortunately, they've gone through the growing pains of having young players hurt. You're trying to make it through and they haven't got the experience that normally they would have. What Embiid is doing, with short minutes, is very impressive."

Thibodeau coached the Bulls against the Sixers in the 2012 playoffs, when Rose crumpled to the floor with just over a minute to play in Game 1, lost to a torn ACL. He was out the whole next season and has struggled staying healthy since. Thibodeau saw the difficulties Rose had getting his full game back, which makes Embiid's fluid progress all the more extraordinary.

But it's more than the guard-like shooting form and the overpowering presence in the low post. Embiid possesses all that and an incredible existence on social media, a personality like few others. He begs for All-Star votes so as to get a date with a celebrity, believed to be Rihanna, his crush. He shares butt-slaps with DeMarcus Cousins, so as not to get one-upped by the premier big man in the league. He texts former Spur Tim Duncan for advice.

Embiid, named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December on Tuesday, is on the verge of superstardom, despite all the obstacles he has been presented with.

"He has exceeded my expectations, and, if you catch me at different moments, I will say that he has exceeded it at times by a lot," said Brown. "As we've talked about a lot, different parts of the game, you step back and you really sort of are surprised that a man of his size can make plays, defensively and offensively, with some mobility and toughness that we've seen. We've seen a side of him from just an inner belief of going to a free throw line doesn't faze him. Wanting the ball at the end of a game doesn't faze him.

"He sleeps fine at night with the comfort that he's talented and he understands that, and he embraces wanting to take that next step on being great and the responsibility and opportunity that he has with this organization and the time frame that we are all at. This is a perfect collision of all that, responsibility and opportunity. I think he really relishes that, and I'm excited to help lead him through that."

No one could have seen such a meteoric rise from Embiid, not over a full season or two and certainly not after only 23 games. Well, nearly no one.

"I saw it coming," said Nerlens Noel, with a smile and head shake. "Joel is a special, special player, a special kid and a special person. He's really set himself up in a position to continue to progress. He's grown over these past couple of years tremendously, as a person, a player, and as professional, as well. I think he deserves every blessing coming his way."

Should the progression of Embiid continue, the pro basketball fans of this city will be the blessed ones.

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog