Joel Embiid and Sixers tip off next stage of The Process

WASHINGTON -- Joel Embiid arrived for the Philadelphia 76ers opener with fresh braids, a bona fide front line and, finally, the good health of teammates to match his 7-foot 'tude.

The most charismatic and crazy, young talent in the NBA today took part in what amounted to an end-to-end run at the park Wednesday in the District, 48 minutes that captivated Capital One Arena.

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Wizards held the court 120-115. But Embiid, a flammable-from-25-feet Robert Covington, newbies Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and the 76ers gave a glimpse of what #TrustTheProcess actually means for the persevering and incredibly patient.

Hint: It's not a recovery group; it's a reinvigorated franchise, a lousy-to-lottery payoff that hinges on the cornerstone, a 23-year-old Cameroonian with as much gumption as game.

"I think we have a chance," said Embiid, about a half hour after he finished with a near impeccable line (18 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) in 27 minutes, about seven minutes more than Sixers coach Brett Brown planned to play Embiid.

"We are still learning how to play with each other. I'm learning how to play with Ben [Simmons]. Gotta find my spots. Same offense, but it's got a different rhythm. I just think we have to play more together."

Simmons is looking forward to more.

"I think once we really get back to Philly, then we will really take it in and realize it is special," Simmons said. "It is going to be fun, it's going to be a fun season. I love playing with everybody here."

The only center to ever have simultaneously used profanity to complain of a minutes restriction and Twitter-troll LaVar Ball, father of Lonzo, Embiid was giddy after the squeaky wheel got the grease.

"Man, I was happy, I was excited -- that's the partnership we gotta have and understand each other," he said.

Brown said he didn't want to call it a restriction, but instead "more of a plan" that would be dictated by the rhythm and flow of the game and how Embiid looks. It is a delicate balancing act protecting the franchise's No. 1 investment, who has played but 31 games (just 14 percent of games eligible he could play in his first two years), while also not turning Embiid into the disgruntled center covered in bubble wrap.

Marcin Gortat, his counterpart in the post, had no qualms about tweeting back a fan's observation about his playing time to Embiid.

And yet, Embiid is the only player in league history to miss 51 of 82 games and still astonishingly finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

When he lopes downcourt like a taller, stronger, more ornery and agile Chris Webber, you begin to grasp the enormity of Embiid's size and upside.

When he cups his hand to his ears and begs the Wizards' crowd for more boos, you begin to grasp how well he already plays a heel as well as Rowdy Roddy Piper. Oh, he can play, too. Lord, can he play.

He caught Wall's shot near the end of the first half, a block that looked like a man taking the ball from a youngster. He got his large mitts in the passing lanes. He took the ball off the rim and flicked outlet passes from another era, probably Wes Unseld or Bill Walton's. And he had this pillowy touch from 15 feet in the lane.

The last to leave the morning shootaround practice at Georgetown University Wednesday morning, Embiid was among the first watching film on his laptop of the Wizards before he began his pregame warm-ups.

Above all, Embiid's mix of fire and flair nearly upstaged Washington's pulsating win.

He said he knew he wanted to do something special for the opener, like he did when he returned against Houston last year, dunking nastily on Nene Hilario in the opening seconds. Embiid decided seconds after the tip Wednesday night that Wizards power forward Jason Smith would be dunked maliciously on. Except ...

"I jumped too far away," said Embiid, who nearly pile-drove Smith into the court before he was fouled and made two free throws. "I wanted to do something special, but I just jumped too far."

Asked if anything surprised him Wednesday night, Embiid nodded. "Yes," he said. "Jason Smith is big."

Mike Wise is a senior writer for The Undefeated