Paul Pierce Happy to Have Joel Embiid to Brag About

Luc Mbah a Moute has been there from the start.

He has seen Joel Embiid's rise from a novice beginner with sky-high potential at his basketball camp in 2011, to a rookie battling injuries, to an emerging standout who has garnered All-Star consideration in his first season.

Now that they are playing on opposite coasts, Mbah a Moute has been watching Embiid's rise from a distance with happiness knowing the talent he recognized in Cameroon is translating to the NBA floor. 

"The skill level he had for not playing the game for so long was just unbelievable," Mbah a Moute said before the Sixers' win over the Clippers Tuesday. "Every year he's worked hard and he's gotten better. Obviously, when I saw him he was still very raw to now. All the compliments to him to put in the work, but he had the base for everything. I'm just glad everybody's getting to see it."

Embiid didn't start playing basketball until he was a teenager. His attendance at Mbah a Moute's camp was transformative in his career. Years later, the two were reunited as teammates on the Sixers. Mbah a Moute joined the team in 2014 to take on a mentor role to Embiid, who sat out that season with a foot injury.

"I'm very happy for him to be back on the court playing after being frustrated for two years," Mbah a Moute said.

Embiid is averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game this season. He was sidelined for Tuesday's game with a left knee contusion (and is out again Wednesday), but Mbah a Moute has already seen enough to predict a bright future.

"I think he can be really, really good," he said. "For someone who's been playing for less than six, seven years to be at this level and play this well, he has the skill, the body. Hopefully, he just stays healthy for the rest of his career so everything he has to do is just work on his skills and keep getting better."

One of the keys to Embiid's early success has been his willingness to listen and study the game. His frequent joke of wanting to become a point guard at some point in his career was actually an area of emphasis as he got acclimated to basketball.

"From the go, he was always doing guard drills, always wanted to learn," Mbah a Moute said. "He was kind of a sponge because also when you just start playing the game, it's fun for you and you want to learn everything. I think he kept doing it. It's paying off for him. He gets better every time I see him play. I'm very excited for his future."

Mbah a Moute's teammate, Paul Pierce, also has taken an interest in Embiid's career. Even though Embiid was a baby when Pierce was playing at Kansas, age isn't anything but a number when it comes to Jayhawks supporting one another.

"I always follow Kansas guys that make it to the NBA," Pierce said. "With Joel Embiid and (Timberwolves forward) Andrew Wiggins ... it's something to talk about when you're in the locker room. You talk about who has the most NBA players, what school is the best school. Stuff with bragging rights."

When the 19-year veteran retires, he trusts the Kansas legacy will be in good hands.

"He's definitely representing Kansas, now that I'll be leaving, to the fullest," Pierce said.

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