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Sixers want Joel Embiid bullying defenders down low

"I think he's going to be dominant. I really think he's going to be dominant," coach Brett Brown says.

The Sixers want Joel Embiid (left) to attack the rim more.
The Sixers want Joel Embiid (left) to attack the rim more.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The 76ers want Joel Embiid to incorporate more of what they call "Bully Ball" into his game this season.

To them, "Bully Ball" — getting the ball in the paint and attacking the rim — will lead to more free-throw attempts for the all-star center.

"It's like one dribble, two dribble, gather, step," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "It's like Shaquille O'Neal [used to play]. And he has that ability to do that."

It's no secret that Embiid has the ability to dominate and foul out opponents when stationed in the paint. However, he also has had a tendency to turn the ball over against double teams or while dribbling too much.

"We've been working a lot on handles and taking care of the ball," Embiid said. "Sometimes that's my downfall. So I have to fix that. We are going to see where that goes."

But he's one of the most versatile big men in the game.

He can turn and face up. Embiid has an 18-foot "rocket-space isolation spot" on the floor, Brown said, from which he routinely sticks jumpers. The Sixers also have had some success when he shoots wide-open three-pointers while trailing on fast breaks.

"Part of his … sort of quandary at times is [since] he's that good and that capable all over the floor, is when [do] you get into beast mode and bully ball and when do you want to step out and not get in a fistfight your whole life and look at a three-point shot," Brown said. "There's no book that tells you how to do that.

"So I do look forward to letting him be [a force in] what I think is going to be a dominant year."

Embiid showed last regular season that he's a big-game player who excels on the national stage. The second-team all-NBA selection averaged 22.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.76 blocks in 63 regular-season games. He also finished sixth in the league in defensive rating, at 99.7.

He, however, missed 19 games because of rest or ailments. His most prominent injury was the orbital bone fracture near his left eye that he suffered against the New York Knicks on March 28. That sidelined him for the final eight regular-season games and first two games in the opening-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.

Embiid expressed his desire to become the league MVP.  He is also determined to play in more games than the career-high 71 (regular season and playoffs combined) he participated in last season.

Those are realistic goals since he's finally entering a season at 100 percent and/or in shape.

This summer marked the first offseason that he didn't have training restrictions since he was drafted third overall in 2014. He missed his first two seasons because of two foot surgeries. He was on a minutes restriction and unable to play on back-on-back days during the 2016-17 season. That campaign concluded in March 2017 with knee surgery, which prohibited him from working out that summer. Embiid began last season with a minutes restriction and being prohibited to play on consecutive nights.

"It's different," Embiid said of coming into this season. "I have a different mind-set. I don't have to worry about anything. It's just about coming in and getting in better shape, playing with my teammates and learning how to play with each other."

He was able to spend a lot of time doing that in the previous two training camps. But with the same starting lineup as last season (Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Embiid, JJ Redick, Ben Simmons), the Sixers are already continuing where they left off last season.

"It's especially great for him," Brown said. "You know we all look at the ups and down that the season had. Whether it's an injury or a mask [like he wore for the facial injury], it's hard to define his own personal rhythm and it affects the team. … I think he's going to be dominant. I really think he's going to be dominant."