PHILADELPHIA, PA -- There's something about the national spotlight that Philadelphia 76ers big man, Joel Embiid loves. Sure, he may lay an occasional egg and look sluggish on the court, but when it has come down to most big games in 2019, Embiid has shown up and shown out.
On Christmas day against the Milwaukee Bucks, the story wasn't any different. With the reigning MVP in town, Embiid felt as if just because he's having a down season statistically, everybody believed he might've lost his step a bit.
However, we have learned in the recent past that Embiid can truly flip the switch and turn on his superstar power, leading the Sixers to a win, if necessary. On Wednesday, the superstar center managed to lock down Giannis Antetokounmpo on defense, while dropping 31 points of his own on the offensive side of the ball.
To no surprise, Sixers' head coach Brett Brown named Joel Embiid the bell-ringer following the dominant 121-109 victory against the Eastern Conference's top team.
Anybody who watches the NBA knows Embiid can compete with the best of them -- but he hasn't been as consistent in doing so this season. While Embiid struggles with balancing his maturity and style of play, the seven-footer has had his hiccups on the court in 2019.
Throughout the first few months of the season, Embiid has been offering up a mystery trail leading to reasons why he isn't consistently looking like the same player from the last couple of seasons. First, he admitted that he wasn't having fun. Now, Embiid reveals that he's taking somewhat of a conservative approach to the game so he can ensure he's healthy come playoff time.
Following the win over the Bucks, Embiid shrugged off the fact that he locked down the NBA's best player at the moment. "I'm just playing my game," he stated after being asked if the matchup with the "Greek Freak" added any extra juice to his mentality.
Since Embiid showed up big in prime time, against a marquee opponent, it might've seemed like he used the matchup as extra motivation for himself. However, his intensity was more motivated by the fact he understood his team needed him more this time around.
"If my team needs me, I'm gonna show up," Embiid said. "A lot of people have kind of forgotten, I guess, who I am. When I'm needed, I'm going to show up."
It seems Embiid adopted his new mentality from the front office, who is banking millions on him to be available and lead the Sixers to the promise land. Just an hour before tip-off on Christmas afternoon, Sixers' General Manager, Elton Brand, revealed the 76ers may be willing to sacrifice home-court advantage in the playoffs if it means Embiid is healthy.
"Home-court advantage is important," Brand said when discussing the goal of the Sixers. "But having Joel [Embiid] healthy in the playoffs is important to us." Basically, the former player-turned executive means if they don't come out as the top dogs in the regular season -- but Embiid is healthy and available -- the Sixers see it as a win.
Lately, the national media has spun a narrative regarding Embiid's lack of greatness on the court this year. The story has become about how he is playing good this season, but not great. While Embiid took the criticism in stride, the big man understood that the Sixers' organization did not share the same views as the public.
"We're very pleased with where he is," Brand said in regards to Embiid's progress at this point. Not for a moment did the Sixers view Embiid as a player who is falling off.
Instead, they encouraged the All-Star to prioritize his health. Now, Embiid is following instructions by keeping his intensity in check, in order to avoid any injury. However, when playoffs roll around, Embiid intends on unleashing himself. "[When playoffs come], it's going to be a different story," he confidently claimed.
There's still a long way to go before that time comes, but so far, the Sixers' big man is on the right path. The team is just hoping that this new approach works out in the end since the previous gameplans resulted in second-round exits.