Former Kansas center Joel Embiid put on a show for NBA fans eager to watch some sports on TV on Christmas Day. The 7-footer from Cameroon exploded for 25 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and three assists in Philadelphia’s 105-98 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“Great first Christmas game and we got the win. Merry Christmas #TheProcess,” Embiid Tweeted after the victory.
Heading into Monday’s game, the 23-year-old, fourth-year pro, who missed his first two years in the league because of surgeries on his right foot, had averaged 23.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in 31.1 minutes per contest.
Embiid’s college coach, Bill Self, recently offered some glowing comments about the versatile big man — who hit a three from the corner in the fourth quarter against the Knicks — on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show.
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“I’ve talked to Joel quite a bit lately. That’s a bad man,” Self exclaimed. “He’ll end up … he has a legitimate chance when LeBron (James) and K.D. (Kevin Durant) are retired … he’s going to be MVP of the league.
“He’s that good,” Self added of Embiid, who recently missed three games because of stiffness in his back.
“He’d be better had he not been hurt. He’d been the best big man in the NBA his second year if he didn’t get hurt,” Self added of the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Embiid averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds while playing 28 games in his one-and-done college season at KU in 2013-14.
“He’s the best big man in the NBA now in my estimation,” Self said. “I watched him get 46 (points) and 15 (rebounds), 7 (blocks) and 7 (assists against Lakers on Nov. 15) and he was just toying with people. The world is going to find out what we knew a long time ago, how talented he is. There are not a ton of players you’d pay to go watch, (Michael) Jordan, Steph (Curry). I think Joel is about to the point people pay just to watch him. I think he’s that good. Other people think he’s that good too.
“Wait until he’s playing 38 minutes a game every game. He is unbelievable. To think when we had him he only had touched the ball two years. He’s dominating. He’s played now 3 1/2 years in his whole life and he’s doing this,” Self exclaimed. “It’s incredible to see how good he’s gotten so fast Paul (Pierce, KU grad) is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If Joel is healthy he could have a run like that.”
Self says big things are ahead for some other young Jayhawks in the NBA, including Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns and Frank Mason of the Sacramento Kings.
Wiggins, a 6-8 guard who was the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, averages 17.6 points and 4.0 rebounds; Jackson, a 6-8 guard and the fourth pick in the 2017 Draft, averages 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. Another rookie, Mason, a 5-11 guard who was taken No. 34 overall in the 2017 Draft, averages 8.0 points and 3.0 assists.
“Josh hasn’t had a chance to turn it on yet. He’s averaging 8 or 9, good for a rookie. He’ll be a guy who will eventually be an all-star,” Self said. “Josh is getting the minutes. He’s been up and down which is expected of a rookie. He’ll be fine.
“I talk to Frank quite a bit. He’s doing great. Wiggs of course is doing very well. To think Joel and Andrew they are going to make $300 million, and Josh, if they stay healthy, maybe closer to $400 million. It’s unbelievable. Wiggs and Joel already signed contracts over $190 million (last offseason). By the time they are 27 they’ll have made $190 million still getting into their prime.”
Embiid is 23, Mason 23, Wiggins 22 and Jackson 20.
Kansas, by the way, has played in three NBA arenas so far this season: the Jayhawks beat Kentucky in the United Center in Chicago, defeated Syracuse in the American Airlines Center in Miami and beat Stanford in the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif.
Self on Frank Mason to Bee
Self commented on former KU point guard Mason to the Sacramento Bee last week: “Frank is as vanilla as it gets. A terrible interview. Says the same things over and over. ‘My teammates did this. My coaches did that.’ From what the public sees, he is pretty bland,” Self told Ailene Voisin of the Bee.
“Some of that is the training he got here. His sense of humor is a little different, too, because he’s funny and he doesn’t know he’s funny. He is one of those people who will say or do something that cracks everybody up, keeps them loose, and they can’t figure out why. But what he really wants to do is work. He wants it bad, wants it bad.”
Mason, the consensus college player of the year in 2016-17, was the fourth pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
“I told him, ‘Frank, I love ya buddy, but you are not the fifth pick (of first round),’ ” Self told the Bee, referring to Kings rookie starter De’Aaron Fox, “ ‘and you are not making $15 million or whatever it is. All those (lottery picks) are going to get their chance.’ And he’s OK with that. As long as he can compete and is getting minutes, he’s fine.”
Analyst raves about De Sousa
Recruiting analyst Eric Bossi of Rivals.com covered incoming KU power forward Silvio De Sousa at the recent Chick-fil-A tournament in South Carolina.
Bossi was impressed at the play of the 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward from IMG Academy, the tourney’s most outstanding player who is set to join KU’s team Tuesday.
“Formerly ranked No. 25 in the class of 2018, De Sousa will have to make up for lost practice time and it’s likely that once the NCAA clears him (through amateurism process) he will have some growing pains. However, for a team that is thin in the post, he’s a welcome addition and there’s not much doubt that he should be able to help out immediately,” Bossi wrote Monday.
“The biggest thing going in De Sousa’s favor is that he is physically ready to make the leap to the Big 12. He’s tough, strong, athletic and has a great motor. Even as he’s learning Bill Self’s sets on offense and defense, he can simply be told to go screen on the ball side and chase rebounds and he’ll give the Jayhawks another five fouls on the interior. Going conservative, expecting somewhere in the area of seven points and five rebounds a game from De Sousa after he gets his feet wet isn’t unreasonable and while those numbers aren’t gigantic, they would be hugely helpful to Kansas,” Bossi added.