Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook do not like each other. Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to fix that.
The History of the Beef
During the Sixers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 19th, Joel gave Westbrook a hard foul on a fast break:
Hard foul, nothin’ dirty. (Pretty convenient how Westbrook was finally able to get up and go after Embiid only after multiple teammates arrived to hold Russell back.)
Following the game, reporters asked Russ about the foul:
Reporter: The Embiid foul late, was that just him landing on you? What was your objection to it?
Westbrook: Uh, I don’t think he just landed on me, he added a little extra to it. You know what I’m saying? But it’s okay.
Reporter: You guys are cool?
Westbroo: F*ck no.
The beef between these two players goes back to last season. When the Sixers met the Thunder for the first time during the 2017-2018 campaign, Philly played host to OKC. During that game, Steven Adams fouled out and Embiid turned to the Wells Fargo Center crowd and waved goodbye, taunting Adams. The Thunder ended up winning the game after three overtimes, and Russell Westbrook made sure to taunt Joel with a wave goodbye following the game. There was even a point in the closing seconds in which Embiid accidentally knocked over Carmelo Anthony and tried to help Melo up, only for Westbrook to come over and slap Embiid’s arm away.
The next time the two teams met, Embiid had a ferocious dunk on Russell, followed by a stare down. Westbrook got the last laugh though, staring at Embiid on the bench as time expired on a 10-point Thunder victory:
The on-going feud between Russ and Joel is apparent to the rest of the NBA. After being named a captain for the NBA All-Star game, Giannis Antetokounmpo said that he wants to select Joel Embiid to his team. Giannis also stated that he’d like to select Embiid’s little buddy, Russell Westbrook, for a mending of the chasm between the two. (Side: if you’re unfamiliar with the new-ish format of the NBA All-Star game, team captains now pick the squads rather than a simple East vs. West roster construction.)
“It’s all about love. I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m gonna pick Joel Embiid. If I can pick Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook on the same team, I’ll do it.”
I have to say, I’m really hoping this happens. I typically don’t watch the All-Star game in its entirety, but I would absolutely be tuned in for the moment Russell comes off the bench (because, you know, he hasn’t played well enough to start the All-Star game) to join an Embiid lineup. I’d love to see the two co-exist, with Embiid’s “why u mad?” attitude and Russell’s penchant for taking things personally. Imagine the two getting out on a break, and one of them having to swallow their pride and assist the other.
Related: How about Giannis making Joel a priority? Pretty cool.