PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Before this season, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was easily one of the most exciting players to watch on the team. Not only was he dominant on the court, but his engagement with the crowd was as entertaining as anything on a nightly basis.
Whether it was trash talking to opposing players, or simply pumping up the crowd, Embiid always implemented the entertainment factor into his game. A majority of the fans enjoyed it, but not everybody applauded Embiid's antics.
For the first couple of seasons in his career, Embiid has dealt with a notable amount of criticism for the way he was on and off the court. Before, it didn't seem to bother Embiid. Actually, at times, it seemed to have fueled him.
But something changed over the offseason. After getting sent packing in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, perhaps Embiid figured more of a business-like approach could be better for himself and the Sixers.
Therefore, the big man decided to cut out trash-talking and taunting in hopes that he can become a better player and less of a distraction. We've seen Embiid break character a few times this season and go back to his old ways, but for the most part, he's kept his serious face on all season.
Many have taken notice over the last couple of months, and a lot of fans have grown concerned and disappointed while watching Embiid. Because not only did the All-Star center seemingly regress a bit -- but he looks disinterested too often.
On Tuesday night, Embiid felt the need to break silence on his struggles. As the star center admitted he "hasn't been good enough" as a closer down the stretch in games so far this year, he also analyzed his lack of engagement with the home crowd.
During the win against Denver, Embiid gave the crowd a little shimmy move after completing an 'and one' with a ridiculous behind the back basket. In previous seasons, that would've been a typical move after the score by Embiid. This season though, his cocky celebration came as a surprise.
While Embiid attempts to "mature" himself on the court, the seven-footer admits he needs to start getting into the game more. "I haven't done it enough all season," Embiid said in regards to celebrating along with the crowd.
"I haven't been having fun. It goes back to being mature. One of the biggest parts of my game is just having fun. By having fun means talking trash, but that part of my game has been cut, so I just need to be myself, and I guess just do whatever I want because when I'm having fun, I dominate."
Will "fun" Joel Embiid make a return in the near future? The star center sounded somewhat undecided. On one end, Embiid wants to unleash himself and go back to his old ways. On the other hand, Embiid believes his antics could be too much of a distraction for the organization and his teammates.
For the time being, the Sixers' center will most likely keep himself in check. However, if his game continues to be affected by it, there's a good chance he flips the switch. Because while he cares about not being a distraction to everybody, Embiid has made it very clear that he cares about winning. And he will do whatever it takes to make it happen.