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Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid poses for a photograph during media day at the NBA basketball team's practice facility, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid’s debut was worth the 2-year wait

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The line read six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 13 minutes.

But for Philadelphia 76ers fans it was much more meaningful than that.

After a two-year wait, it was simply seeing Joel Embiid run up and down the floor.

It was seeing him healthy.

It was seeing him shake off the rust and show the flashes that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Embiid admitted before the Sixers’ 92-89 victory over the Boston Celtics that he was so nervous that he could barely breathe — it wasn’t until he hit his first basket, a jumper with 50.6 seconds left in the first quarter, that he finally calmed down.

“After that first basket, everything kind of opened up,” Embiid told reporters after the game. “I felt that I had more energy, I felt my mentality changed. I felt like I was free and everything opened up.”

The basket was an impressive one and gave fans a glimpse of what can be expected.

Embiid caught the ball just right of the lane, took a couple of dribbles down to the right block, made a quick fake, then hit a spinning turnaround jumper — taking exactly what the Celtics gave him, not forcing the play:

On defense, Embiid showed flashes of dominance, turning away a powerful dunk attempt by this year’s No. 3 overall pick, Jaylen Brown. Brown took the ball with a running start from the right elbow and was greeted at the rim by Embiid, who showed great lift by blocking the shot.

“That was a pretty lucky block,” Embiid joked.

He showed a plethora of moves; an up-and-under, a spin, and even some range with a deep two with his foot on the three-point line.

“Honestly I felt like in the 12 minutes, I thought I was going to go out there and score like 40 points,” Embiid said. “But that didn’t happen.”

While 40 points might not have happened, he showed the ability to score, shoot and defend. After starting the night going 0-for-3 from the field, the Celtics double-teamed the 7-foot-2 rookie and forced him into mistakes, which is to be expected from a guy who last played a competitive basketball game on March 1, 2014.

“I think when we first started the game, I think the shots I missed were pretty good, “Embiid said about his 0-for-3 start to the night. “I just missed them, so I had a different mindset, to just make all the plays defensively and let them game come to me offensively. At the beginning I kind of rushed all those shots.”

“I think I had a bad game plan to start the game,’ Embiid explained. “I needed to go to the basket instead of shooting, that was my fault. Next time, I have to get to the paint and use my jump hook and get some easy layups and I think everything will open up.”

Overall, Sixers fans had to be thrilled with what they saw from Embiid. He ran the floor well, was a physical presence, showed a defensive prowess and most importantly, showed why Sixers fans were willing to wait.

And now the wait is over with Embiid finally playing in an NBA game (sort of), and it went about as well as you could expect for a guy who hasn’t played any meaningful basketball in about two-and-a-half years.

Just seeing him healthy is a win, and once the rust wears off the numbers will follow.

Joel Embiid’s debut was worth the 2-year wait

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