SHANGHAI, China — Joel Embiid has been outspoken about how he thinks DeAndre Ayton stacks up to him as a basketball player.
Embiid's latest comments came on ESPN's The Jump back on Sept. 21 during 76ers media day.
"Oh my God. He's about to get his [butt] kicked this year," the Sixers all-star said of the Phoenix Suns center who was taken first overall in June's NBA draft.
Embiid was reminded of those comments Thursday during the NBA China Games media availability at the Oriental Sports Center. The Sixers and Dallas Mavericks are in town for Friday's morning preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
He also was reminded that he had said Orlando rookie center Mo Bamba — a Westtown School grad and good friend of Embiid's — was too skinny to guard him. So, a reporter asked him to name rookies, other than his teammates, whom he actually likes.
"I like all them," Embiid said. "I think they have a lot of potential. I think the part that people don't get when I talk trash, especially when it comes to Ayton or Mo Bamba — I'm really good friends with Mo; I like him a lot — the part that people don't get is I'm always commenting on how much potential they have and how good they can be.
"I think both of them can be really good."
Embiid said he thinks Ayton, Bamba, and Mavericks rookie guard Luka Doncic are going to be the future of the NBA along with himself, teammate Ben Simmons, and other young stars.
"I think they are going to be great," he added. "I have a lot of respect for them. It doesn't matter if they are rookies or not — they can play basketball."
That's why he's excited to go head-to-head against Ayton and Bamba in the regular season.
Embiid's first regular-season matchup against Bamba will come Oct. 20. He'll face Ayton and the Suns on Nov. 19 at the Wells Fargo Center.
But he got a taste of facing the Magic in Monday's 120-114 preseason victory at the Wells Fargo. Bamba had a solid game in a reserve role, scoring 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting. He did, however, collect five fouls.
Meanwhile, Embiid finished the game with 20 points and two blocks. He and Bamba engaged in some friendly trash talking.
"He couldn't really guard me, which is true," Embiid said. "That was true. But we have a past. And that's what I do. I love having fun. To me, [trash talking] is a way to have fun."
The Sixers and Mavs participated in Fan Day on Thursday. Embiid teamed with Chinese celebrities to win the skills competition. Sixers rookie Landry Shamet and his Chinese celebrity teammates finished second in the three-point competition.
Franklin, the Sixers mascot, interacted with fans. The Sixers Flight Squad also performed its trademark acrobatic dunks off trampolines, electrifying the crowd.