Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid entered the 2020-2021 NBA season with a large chip on his shoulder. Since coming into the league, Embiid has set some large personal goals for himself. It started with wanting to become an All-Star.
At this point, Embiid has notched four-straight All-Star game appearances. Now, he's focused on something bigger. Although his three-week hiatus might've robbed him of the opportunity to win MVP this season, Embiid is still going into every game with the mindset of forcing himself back into the conversation of MVP candidates.
For him to do that, Embiid has to play aggressively. Considering how tall, strong, and talented he is, Embiid has the tools and the ability to dominate anybody in front of him if he's willing to flip the switch and do so.
During his first game back on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Embiid mentioned to his teammates he planned to take it easy and didn't intend to utilize his strong finish at the rim to avoid tweaking his injured knee.
Although he didn't abide by his own rules, Embiid did look a bit rusty in his first game back, as expected. When he got two straight days off before heading into the Boston Celtics matchup, though, Embiid was re-charged.
In 32 minutes on the court, the Sixers' big man collected 35 points by hitting on 16 of his 20 free throws, nailing a few jump shots, and even throwing down a series of powerful dunks. Although Embiid doesn't believe he's one-hundred percent just yet, he made it clear that he's ready to dominate every and any opponent in his way.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in front of me,” Embiid said on Tuesday night. “As we’ve seen all season, it doesn’t really matter who has been in front of me. I just attack every single game. I want to be aggressive. I want to get the other bigs in foul trouble. I want to get to the bonus early, so now they’re going to stop playing physical. Even if they play physical, I’m going to use that to my advantage to get the free-throw line.”
That's been Embiid's mindset all season long, and it led to a fourth-straight All-Star appearance and a ticket to the front of the line of the MVP race. While the award might be out of his reach at this point due to a lack of availability, Embiid is still playing like he wants it more than everybody else on the floor.