Embiid, Howard square off when Hawks visit Sixers

Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard will be the centers of attention Saturday afternoon, when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid started his career impressively in Wednesday night's season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder while Howard re-started his in the same fashion one night later, when the Hawks defeated the Washington Wizards.

"It was special," Embiid said after collecting 20 points and seven rebounds in a 103-97 loss to the Thunder. "I thought this moment was going to be special, and it was great."

The 7-0 Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, sat out two seasons while recovering from a pair of foot surgeries. He is on a minutes restriction and played only 22:25 against Oklahoma City but thrilled a sellout crowd in the Wells Fargo Center with his every move.

The fans chanted "MVP" or "Trust the Process" when he went to the foul line, the latter a reference to the rebuilding approach of former general manager Sam Hinkie. Embiid also labelled himself "the Process" in an SI.com profile earlier this week.

"That's my motto -- 'Trust the process' -- so that was great (to hear the fans chant it)," he said.

Overall, Embiid felt he did "OK."

"At the beginning I was nervous," he said. "Once you make that first shot, it just goes away."

The 30-year-old Howard made eight All-Star teams in his first 10 seasons but struggled the last two years with the Houston Rockets. He signed a free-agent contract in July with Atlanta, his hometown team, and in Thursday's season-opening 114-99 victory over the Wizards contributed 11 points and 19 rebounds.

Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 28 points Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 off the bench, but Howard's performance had people buzzing.

"Dwight has established himself as an elite defensive player and elite rebounder and elite shot blocker," coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters afterward. "He's proven. His work and his commitment to everything we're doing, I'm very pleased with. It really makes a difference and I think it can fuel us in our pace.

"We're going to want that from Dwight on Saturday and whenever we play again after that. I think he's looking forward to being a force."

Especially on the glass.

"It's my job," Howard said Thursday night, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That's the first thing Coach said in our first meeting as a team: He said, 'Dwight, we want you to rebound. You have to defensively and offensively rebound. You have to set the tone for our team on the glass every single night.' "

"If we can hold teams to one shot, we're going to be able to get out in transition with guys like Kyle (Korver) and Dennis (Schroder) and Baze (Kent Bazemore), where they tend to do great. If I can get the ball and kick it out to them early and get those easy shots, our defense is always set.

"It's my job and I take pride in it. For us to win, especially win a championship, we got to rebound."