When the Philadelphia 76ers went to Toronto this past Monday night for their preseason opener, Joel Embiid was with the team on the trip. However, he was just a presence on the bench. As the Sixers arrived in Canada one night prior to the opener, they ruled Embiid out for Monday night as they wanted to rest the big man.
His absence on Monday didn't come as much of a surprise. Considering he's coming off of a torn meniscus in the playoffs last season and ramped up action in training camp without any limitations, Embiid deserved the night off.
But after getting Monday and Tuesday off and returning to practice on Wednesday, Embiid was all ready to go for Philly's second preseason matchup against Toronto on Thursday night. As expected, he made his 2021 preseason debut.
"Joel looked just like Joel Embiid," said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers after the game. "Exactly like him," he finished.
For his first action of the preseason, Embiid checked in for nearly 20 minutes. Getting up ten total shots, he drained just four of his attempts for ten points. It wasn't a typically dominant Joel Embiid performance, but the big man made it clear that scoring was never going to be a priority heading into the night. So, he felt positive after getting his feet wet on the court for the first time this offseason.
"I felt good," he said. "The first game -- I felt pretty good. Playing against Toronto is always a challenge for me. Not necessarily a challenge, but these are the types of games where I'm really focused on passing the ball and inviting double teams, and kicking it out. This is not the type of team I'm going to go out and score 50 because they are going to double and triple-team on every single possession."
In past years, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has proven that he can draw up a defensive game plan to get under Joel Embiid's skin. So, heading into Thursday night's game, the big man joked with another teammate that he knew he wasn't going to score much in his first preseason game since it was against Toronto.
"My focus coming into tonight was, I told Tyrese (Maxey) I was gonna have zero points and ten assists," Embiid said. "I was trying to get guys and figure out how to be a better passer. A few turnovers here and there, but we can always get better."
All in all, Embiid finished the game with just three turnovers and three assists. By no means was it his best performance, but he went into the game with a game plan, and he stuck with it. In the end, he helped the Sixers' primary unit gain a notable lead over Toronto before they eventually came out on top with a 125-113 victory.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.