During a 76ers practice on Thursday, Embiid and Tucker were engaged in some physical play. One sequence ended with Embiid scoring and then delivering his verbal punch.
“You can’t guard me!” Embiid yelled. “Just like Miami! You couldn’t guard me with Miami, and you can’t guard me now.”
Tucker is in his first year as a member of the 76ers after spending last season with the Heat. Starting 70 of his 71 regular season games for the Heat, the 37-year-old Tucker provided modest statistical numbers but valuable veteran leadership. Of course, he was also a key defender.
Tucker has played for six different teams. During all of his stops, his intangible assets have outweighed his numbers on the stat sheet.
Embiid’s confidence in his own abilities has developed over the years after his delayed NBA career got underway in 2016. That delay was the result of injury issues that kept the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft off the court.
Once Embiid was ready to go, he began his rise to becoming one of the NBA’s top big men. Evidence of his abilities can be seen in his runner-up finishes in league MVP voting during each of the past two seasons.
Last season, Embiid had a real shot to capture the MVP prize, but he came up short against Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Embiid ended the 2021-22 campaign by averaging a league-high 30.6 points per game as well as 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per contest.
Embiid is again making a case for the MVP award this season with his current averages of 33.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.
For the Heat, they have plenty of time before they have to battle with Embiid, Tucker and the rest of the 76ers. The first matchup between the two teams this season won’t take place until Feb. 27 in Philadelphia.
Until then, the Heat will focus on trying to get their season headed in the right direction. Their Monday night victory over the Indiana Pacers moved their record to 13-15 on the season.
The game against the Pacers was the first of a four-game road trip, with a Wednesday night matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder next on the agenda.