BOSTON -- When word emerged that Joel Embiid had been voted an Eastern Conference All-Star starter before Thursday's game in Boston, Philadelphia 76ers coaches and teammates flocked to his locker stall to celebrate the moment.
That parade of well-wishers included Sixers coach Brett Brown, who came over from the coaches' room to offer a congratulatory handshake, then gushed about what Embiid's nod means to the franchise as a whole.
"Like somebody just gave one of your children a star and put it on his paper. It's true," Brown said. "[Embiid] and I have been doing this for a long time, and I have been with him the longest out of any of the players in the locker room. He's gone through a lot. To think that somebody that's played -- what is it, 65 games? -- just from that small sample size is now on the All-Star team and starting?
"His story of perseverance is remarkable, and his story as it reflects the organization and the process that we've all been going through is a wonderful story. I'm just very proud of him."
Embiid celebrated his All-Star nod with a monster effort against the East-leading Celtics, putting up 26 points and 16 rebounds as Philadelphia prevented Boston from completing a four-game season sweep with an 89-80 triumph at TD Garden.
He downplayed the notion that the All-Star announcement provided extra motivation.
"I felt like I would have been extra-motivated if I had not been a starter," Embiid said. "The coaches told me, they were like, 'You don't have anything to prove. Just play basketball.'"
During a postgame interview with ESPN following Philadelphia's win, Embiid was asked whether he might finally have a chance of landing a date with pop star Rihanna now that he was a bona fide All-Star.
"She denied me back then; there's no reason to go back to her," Embiid said. "So I gotta move on to the next one. There's a lot of pretty women out there, and I'm beautiful, so I gotta move on to the next one."
Embiid often professed his fondness for Rihanna in 2013, then tweeted in 2014: "I was trying to get with this famous girl and she said, 'Come back when you're an All-Star.'"
Fans responded to Embiid's All-Star nod by flooding Rihanna's Instagram mentions with his username. Trust the process, indeed.
Embiid thanked the fans on Twitter for their support.
Fantastic day!!!! We got a great win and I became an ALL STAR.... I wanna thank all of you guys out there and the organization for the support.. We've been through so much but this is for you guys so THANK YOU #TheProcess pic.twitter.com/8PjJre90KZ— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 19, 2018
His team having posted consecutive wins over the two top teams in the East (Toronto and Boston) while moving back into the playoff picture, Brown took great pride in reflecting on how far Embiid and the Sixers as a whole have come this season.
"[The All-Star nod is] significant for him. It's significant for any player," Brown said. "It validates his perseverance, and to think that he hasn't really done a lot of practicing, yet still produces the results that he produces, is just further, to me, incentive on trying to help get him in better shape and help all that as his health allows. It's just to remind him that what you've done is amazing and well done, and we've got more to give, and we've got more to go."
Embiid dipped deep into his offensive toolbox against Boston, showcasing a variety of post moves, including silky fadeaways and brute force and-1s.
The Celtics had few answers for Embiid as Philly built as much as a 21-point lead. Boston made a late charge but couldn't come all the way back.
"[Embiid] got it going," said Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown. "I think he got comfortable and just got it rolling. He was scoring, getting calls, all of the above. We won't see them again maybe until the playoffs. But if we do, we've just gotta do a better job trying to contain him. He's a really good player. Strong. And he's big. And he's good at getting fouls. So we've gotta do a better job of that, and they've gotta let us touch him."
Embiid noted how he played poorly in previous matchups against Boston and wanted to redeem himself.
"I've been struggling a little bit against that team, the two games that I've played against them. So tonight I really wanted to play better," Embiid said.
Boston-Philly would be the No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup if the playoffs started today.
"I feel like we're right there with them," Embiid said. "I don't know what seed we're going to be, but that's a potential matchup in the playoffs, so we always want to come out and try to dominate. Let them know that it's not going to be easy."
But there's a lot to accomplish before then. Like that trip to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game.
"I'm ready. I'm excited," Embiid said. "First time, so it should be really fun."