76ers' Joel Embiid Responds to Marcus Smart Saying He 'Flails' for Fouls

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2021

Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, right, stares down Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers after drawing the foul during the third quarter of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid downplayed a comment from Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who said the three-time All-Star "flails" a lot to draw foul calls.

Embiid, who went 17 of 21 from the free-throw line in Wednesday night's 117-109 victory over the Celtics, told reporters he believes the fouls are an example of his "basketball IQ":

"Marcus Smart just told me that I flail a lot?. Come on. I'm sure he knows himself, and he knows his game too. He does a lot of that. And I don't think I do. I mean, if you watch basketball and if you're a student of the game and if you actually pay attention during the game, we all see. Every single foul, I get fouled. They probably don't call all of them, like the last one. There was three minutes left, I went up, and that was a foul and they knew it, but they didn't call it. So there's a lot that they don't call, and there's a lot that they call because you have to.

"The game is physical. Other teams tend to try to be extra physical against me. And I guess I'm just smarter than everybody else. I just take advantage of it. I just take advantage of how they're guarding me. You can call that, I don't know, basketball IQ, like if you're going to put your hand up there, I'm gonna take advantage of it and I'm gonna get to the free-throw line, because I know that I'm a great free-throw shooter and that's a better chance for me to help the team win in those situations."

Embiid's number of free-throw attempts exceeded the total of all the Celtics combined (20), and Philadelphia finished the game with 30.8 percent of its points (36 of 117) coming from the charity stripe.

"We've got to do our best to play without fouling," Boston head coach Brad Stevens said. "I'll go back and look at each one, figure out what we can do better. He's gonna score some, but 42 is too much. It's gonna be hard to win a game when the best player on the other team scores 42 points."

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Along with the game-high point total, Embiid tallied 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 33 minutes.

He ranks second in the NBA in player efficiency rating (29.81) behind only the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (31.91) in 12 appearances during the 2020-21 season.

Sixers forward Tobias Harris said Embiid deserves a place in the early MVP conversation.

"[He's] for sure putting on an MVP year, and one of the biggest things is that we continue to sustain it game after game, and we progress, even himself continue to progress, throughout this year," Harris said. "But I'm happy for him because it's what he's put in, and when you win, or are successful as a team, you get that type of notoriety, for sure."

Between the center's individual numbers and the 76ers' 10-5 record, best in the Eastern Conference, it's hard to argue that point.

The biggest question for Embiid throughout his career hasn't been MVP-caliber talent, but rather durability. He's never played more than 64 games in a season and missed 22 contests in 2019-20.

If he can stay healthy throughout the current campaign, the Sixers will be a major threat in the East.