To some, this will look like I’m stealing Zach Lowe’s 10 Things I Like & Don’t Like column and creating a shorter, less insightful knock-off version; I prefer to think of imitation as the finest form of flattery. More importantly, I think this format is a fantastic way to appreciate the minutiae of an NBA season. Every week throughout the season (that’s the plan anyway), I’ll share a handful of the things (memorable moments, noteworthy trends, tactical tidbits, etc.) that stood out to me in my League Pass adventures.
Developing Chemistry in Philadelphia
The Hinkie Plan has rewarded Philadelphia 76ers fans with the drool-worthy duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Watching these two generational prospects share the floor has been mind-blowing, and the results are all the more impressive when you consider that they’re still learning how to play together. Whenever you turn on a Sixers game, you’ll see glimpses of the two building chemistry, figuring out how to share the court and play off one another.
On one play in a game against the Houston Rockets, they messed up the spacing for each other and the result was a relatively weak Embiid post-up:
These are the typical growing pains of young players, but it was fascinating to see them talk about it on the bench:
I’m no lip-reader, but it looks like Embiid is telling Simmons to time his cut after Embiid starts making his move to maintain ideal spacing. These two are still learning, but the rest of the league is officially on notice. Simmons & Embiid are coming… and they’re going to be a problem.
First Team All-No-Dip
I love watching Joe Ingles play because he’s so unorthodox. He has a Harden-like ability to get by defenders with craft instead of speed, and he does a little bit of everything for the Utah Jazz.
He also has an uncanny knack for starting his shooting motion at head height when the pass to him is high. Most guys have to bring the ball back down to their shooting pocket to begin their motion from the beginning, but not Jingling Joe Ingles. Not Joe Ingles, not Manu Ginobili, not Anthony Morrow and not Marc Gasol. They are your No-Dip All-Stars:
A Special Cameroonian Connection
A neat moment from the aforementioned Rockets – Sixers game: Joel Embiid helping Luc Richard Mbah a Moute off the ground.
What’s special about this? Mbah a Moute is the person who set Joel Embiid on the path that brought him into our basketball consciousness. In 2010, Mbah a Moute launched the annual “Luc Mbah a Moute Basketball Camp” in Cameroon that would allow the country’s basketball players to audition for 5 spots in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp.
In 2011, after just 3 months of training with a local coach, Embiid participated in the Mbah a Moute Basketball Camp (he skipped the first day because he was too nervous). I don’t know how long Mbah a Moute needed to understand what he was witnessing, but the big man clearly made an impression. Embiid was selected to attend the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg. After that, Mbah a Moute arranged for Embiid to finish high school in America. Six years later, Embiid looks like a destroyer of worlds and has publicly pined for Rihanna.
To get some sense of the timeline:
- Sometime in 2010: Joel Embiid starts playing basketball
- April 2011: Joel Embiid starts practicing with a local coach (Guy Moudio)
- July 2011: Embiid impresses at the Mbah a Moute Camp and is selected to go to Basketball Without Borders
- August 2011: Embiid participates in Basketball Without Borders
- September 2011: Mbah a Moute arranges for Embiid to go to Montverde Academy in Florida for his junior year of high school (Mbah a Moute went to Montverde from 2001 – 2005)
- November 2012: After transferring for his senior year of high school, Embiid commits to the University of Kansas
- November 2013: Embiid plays his first game for Kansas
- April 2014: Embiid declares for the 2014 NBA Draft
The Sixers traded for Mbah a Moute right before Embiid’s rookie season, so the veteran has been a consistent presence in Embiid’s basketball journey. I don’t know if the moment captured in the above screenshot was special for Embiid or Mbah a Moute, but it was certainly cool to me.
Note: To learn more about Embiid’s journey, I recommend the following articles
- Started From Yaounde, Now He’s Here by Jordan Ritter Conn
- Cameroon Calling by Jackie MacMullan
- ‘I’m the Process’ by Lee Jenkins
Repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to NBA playcalling. If they can’t stop it, why would you call anything else? The most memorable example I can think of in this regard is the Cleveland Cavaliers running the same play (Horns Rub) repeatedly against the Toronto Raptors in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals.
To successfully execute this kind of repetition, however, you need experienced players that know how to read the defense and counter any attempts to break up the play. This sequence by the New York Knicks against the Indiana Pacers shows:
A) how inexperience can rear its ugly head (Knicks)
B) how good NBA veterans are at reading plays (Pacers)