MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Basketball traditionalists cringe at the sight of the 7-foot-2, 280-pound Joel Embiid spotting up to attempt three-pointers.
They’ll remind you that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal became Hall of Famers by dominating opponents in the paint. The same can be said, for the most part, about fellow Hall of Fame centers Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Embiid, the 76ers’ four-time All-Star, was a late scratch from Monday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum due to right rib soreness. Shooting guard Seth Curry (right shoulder soreness) also was ruled out.
Embiid has attempted 3.4 three-pointers per game. He’s made at least one three-pointer in 15 of 17 games he’s played. Even that’s a bit misleading, considering Embiid didn’t attempt a three against the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 4.
But don’t expect Embiid and the Sixers to apologize to traditionalists for his style of play.
“Joel, he mixes it up,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He does a lot better [at] posting, midrange, threes. We want him to have all that in his game. There are a few bigs that can do that, him and [Denver’s Nikola] Jokić. That probably stops right here; a couple of others can do it. But those two do it the best.”
Embiid was shooting a career-best 38.6% from three heading into Monday’s game. He shot 37.7% last season and 33.2% in 277 career games, so it’s a shot that he’s improved.
However, the sixth-year veteran did make a career-best six in 12 attempts against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 28, 2017. Yet some would say a three is a bad shot for an imposing player who routinely demands double and triple teams in the post.
“You let great players be great,” Rivers said. “A bad shot ... is probably an average for a great player. ... But for most others, those are bad shots.
“But this is not a democracy. It never has been. It never will be. Certain players are allowed to do certain things. Just like Matisse [Thybulle] is allowed to do certain things defensively that no one else is allowed on the team, because he’s better.”
So, as Rivers sees it, Embiid is being allowed to be great. The coach also points out that Embiid is not a traditional center.
“Joel is just a great player,” Rivers said. “I don’t look at the number or the size. He’s one of our better three-point shooters. So shouldn’t he shoot threes? I always laugh at that, like if Joel has a wide-open shot and misses it [people ask], ‘Why is he shooting a three?’ But if Seth has a wide-open shot and misses it, it’s a good shot.
“So it’s the same thing for Joel.”
Curry revisits his first team
The Grizzlies were the first of Curry’s seven teams in his NBA career.
Memphis signed Curry, who had been playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Development League, on Dec. 24, 2013. He played four minutes of mopup duty against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 5, 2014, in his lone appearance with the Grizzlies before being waived.