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76ers’ Joel Embiid Makes Case for Defensive Player of the Year Honors



Joel Embiid

Following a dominant performance during the Philadelphia 76ers win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, Sixers big man Joel Embiid is making his case for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Embiid collected 40 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks and also hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left to propel the Sixers over the NBA’s hottest team in recent weeks, the Jazz.

Embiid also isn’t letting go of the fact Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named Defensive Player of the Year last season, an award that Embiid says belonged to him, and took exception to those in the media saying he was “scared” of playing against Gobert after missing their first matchup last month.

“As we saw tonight, it looks like I was very, very scared of him,” Embiid said sarcastically, according to ESPN’s Tim Botemps. “So, yeah, keep talking.

“But going up against him, one of my goals is to also be Defensive Player of the Year. So, you know, when you go up against those types of guys, he’s a great player, and you know, he does a lot for his team that don’t show up on the stat sheet … but when you go against those guys, you know, it brings something else to my game.

“I want to dominate. On the offensive end, but mainly on the defensive end, because that’s the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year … those are the matchups that you want to go out there and just dominate and prove to everybody that, as a team, that we have a great team, and, individually, you should be up there when it comes to those rankings and stuff.”

Embiid also felt slighted that Gobert earned third-team All-NBA honors at center, ahead of him.

“That’s pretty fair,” Embiid said. “But what motivates me is to win the game. Without winning, you know, you’re not part of those conversations when it comes to Defensive Player of the Year and MVP and all that stuff. That’s the first thing. I want to win. That’s all I care about.

“The past is the past. It’s unfortunate the way things happened last year when I wasn’t on there. … It plays a huge role in my mentality this year, just wanting to destroy everything in my path. I’m playing against a lot of great players every single night. They’re really good at what they do. But wherever I’m needed to get the job done, defensively and offensively, that’s what I’ve got to do.”

Embiid has made a major step forward with his play this season, and has performed better offensively than even he thought he could.

“When I came into the league, I never thought I would be that good offensively,” Embiid said. “I always focused on the defensive side, and that’s always been my goal to win it. It’d be nice to do it, but like I said, that’s been my focus coming into the league, and obviously the scoring and the offensive side has taken over.

“I keep going back to the same thing — you can’t be in those conversations without winning. Right now, we’re winning, we’re first in the East, we beat the best team in the league. I got a bunch of great teammates that are doing a great job. You see [Sixers forward Tobias Harris], that’s why I’m preaching for him to be an All Star, because you look at nights like tonight, he dominated in overtime. And you know, as a team, we just play all well together, we move the ball, and we defend well.”

Anthony DiMoro is the creator of Sports Rants and the CEO of Elite Rank Media. He is a former Contributor for Forbes and the Huffington Post where he covered sports, social media, and SEO. Anthony formerly hosted the 'Forbes SportsMoney Podcast'.