There is evidence to support the claim that the NBA is no longer a center-friendly league. Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal are long gone. After a fast start, Dwight Howard never regained the dominance shown in his early-career Finals appearance. The modern game is about spreading the floor and shooting threes, as the Golden State Warriors have perfected. Today’s big man spends plenty of time beyond the three-point line, like Kristaps Porzingis.
Saturday night in Philadelphia though, centers Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid added a new chapter to their budding rivalry within the Eastern Conference when the 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons, 108-103. The two rebounding machines, who aren’t afraid to exchange blows in the media or the low post, are proving that big men can still ignite social media like the little guys.
After Embiid drove on Drummond and drew his sixth foul of the game with 2:35 to play, the 23-year-old and his home fans bid 24-year-old Drummond a Philadelphia goodbye.
A bit of a feud between the two started on Oct. 23. After Embiid scored 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting in a 97-86 preseason 76ers win, he declared that Drummond “doesn’t play any defense.”
Friday morning, Embiid doubled down on his provocation by declaring “no disrespect, but he can’t shoot.” Drummond, who is in his sixth NBA season and has played every regular season game of the last four, fired back at Embiid’s inexperience. Despite being one year younger, Embiid has played in 49 NBA games due to a succession of injuries, compared to Drummond’s 406.
On Wednesday, Embiid went on teammate J.J. Redick’s podcast and explained his motivation for instigation.
“Going into my matchup, usually I just want to go out there, have fun, play basketball, dominate. But guys usually have a tendency to have something against me. So they would be extra physical or they would … talk trash to me, so . . . that just elevates my game,” Embiid said. “It makes me want to dominate them. It makes me want to kick their ass so I can go on social media later and just basically talk [trash]. So that’s what I did.”
Both players have backed up their talk on the court this season. Embiid is averaging 22.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Drummond is averaging 14.3 points, 15.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. With DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns in the West, it is an exciting time for low-post fans.
As for who’s the best? Here’s Embiid’s take:
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