PHILADELPHIA -- In the wake of Joel Embiid's latest foray into the social media world, 76ers coach Brett Brown declared before Tuesday's game against the Clippers that he expected to get a big performance from his All-Star center.
"I look forward to seeing him play tonight," Brown said.
Embiid went out and proved his coach right, posting 26 points and nine rebounds while dominating the paint. Teammate Ben Simmons finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as the Sixers beat the Clippers 110-103 in their final game before the All-Star break.
"With the noise surrounding Joel over the past 24 hours, him coming out and playing like he did, it didn't surprise me," Brown said with a smile, "and I'd be surprised if it surprised you all."
It certainly didn't surprise Embiid, who apparently has decided that it is time for him to return to his old social media ways. After frequently tweeting and posting on Instagram after games in past seasons, he had toned it down significantly this season.
But after the events of the past few days, including his back-and-forth with former teammate Jimmy Butler on Monday, Embiid declared that his trolling days are back -- though not until after he was booed by the hometown fans to begin the game.
"A little bit," Embiid said when asked if he expected to be booed. "But that's cool. Tonight I could have shushed them again, but it was all about having fun again, getting back to myself.
"Like I said after last game, I'm back to doing whatever I want and saying whatever I want. That's how I used to be, and you know, I was dominating that way. This year I made a decision to change, and I guess it hasn't worked out, so it comes with the good and bad.
"If it helps us win, and if it helps me help the team in a better way to win games, then I'm going to be that guy."
After Embiid was booed before Friday's home win over the Memphis Grizzlies, he took things to another level during Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bulls, getting caught on camera telling the fans to "shut up" twice during the game. The second time he did so, after he hit a 3-pointer in the game's final minute, he included an expletive.
Embiid attempted to downplay the moment at the time, saying, "I mean, I don't care how it looks. I'm just playing basketball. Just getting back to myself, just being a good a--hole. Just playing basketball and just trying to dominate."
But then came Monday's posts and the firestorm they created.
If all of this causes Embiid to keep playing this way, however, the Sixers will probably be just fine with it.
Embiid was every bit the league's most dominant two-way center Tuesday. Although he shot only 8-for-17 from the field, he took as many free throws (13) as the entire Clippers team, helped Philadelphia create a 58-38 edge in points in the paint and largely neutralized center Montrezl Harrell (10 points, six rebounds) to the point that Clippers coach Doc Rivers took him out of the game in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Not long after that, with the game mostly out of reach, Embiid and Marcus Morris Sr. -- whom he'd gone up against plenty of times the past couple of seasons while Morris played for the Boston Celtics -- got tangled up under the basket and exchanged shoves, receiving double technicals.
"We are both physical guys," Morris said afterward. "It was cool, man. He was just, like, wrapping arms and stuff like that. I ain't going to say nothing because they like to fine me, so I am going to keep my mouth shut. It is what it is."
When Embiid was introduced before the game, he was met with a heavy mix of cheers and boos -- far from the usual thunderous ovation he receives as the final player introduced before games at Wells Fargo Center.
On Philadelphia's opening offensive possession, Embiid cleaned up a miss by Simmons and scored, drawing a foul in the process. The crowd reacted with a loud cheer for Embiid, who responded by spreading his arms and asking for more as a wide smile crossed his face.
"Felt great," Embiid said of the way he played. "They be going at me; I went back at them. We're all human beings. If I can take it, then everyone else can take it too. So we move on, we learn from it, we move on. I gotta do a better job. They gotta do a better job.
"I understand where that comes from, but then again, if you dish it, you gotta be able to take it back. But at the end of the day, like I said in my location last night, it's all love. I love my city. I been here for a long time now. We have a special relationship, and I'm happy to be here. I can't wait for the future, especially this year. I think we can accomplish something great."
The other news to come out of Tuesday's game was Brown's decision to remove Al Horford from the starting lineup. It marked the first time Horford had played in a game but not started since November 2007, his rookie year.
"I just accepted it," Horford said of his reaction to Brown telling him Monday that he would be coming off the bench. "Obviously, not the position that I saw myself in, but it's what was best for the team."
Horford finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes and spent one long stretch of the fourth quarter playing alongside Embiid.
"I spoke to Al about it," Brown said. "We're trying to find ways to help him and the team. I felt, disregarding the lineup, defense adjustment I just spoke of, the time was appropriate to do it ... to see if we can get that second unit going with Al."