Cartoon steam billowed out of every player’s ears towards the end of a spicy 119-113 Sixers win over the Clippers Tuesday night. Joel Embiid and Patrick Beverley had to be pried apart in a meeting of master trolls; Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley then got a double-ejection for some choke-pushing. Earlier on, there was also some Sixers friendly fire. See this third-quarter play where Ben Simmons and Embiid, in full view of one another, went up for the same rebound, which sent a Simmons elbow into Embiid’s face and had the big man hollering “Ah fuck!” as he fell out of the play.
“What is he doing, fighting for a fucking rebound?” Embiid can be heard shouting on the sideline.
Embiid smoothed things over after the game, clarifying that he was upset because the face that got hit was the very same face that suffered an orbital fracture last year. “I felt an elbow on my face and I kind of freaked out because that’s the same face I had the surgery on,” he said. “But it was a basketball play, nothing to talk about.”
The Sixers have gone 15-8 since the Butler trade, and aside from some growing pains and occasional grousing, it appears to have put them in a good place to contend. Embiid is the league’s best center and perhaps also its MVP. The two ball-handling stars seem to be figuring out how to co-exist on the floor. But that is a whole lot of, let’s say, personality on the same team. Embiid with his jester provocation, Simmons with his icy imperiousness, Butler with his exhausting all-hours cheesebuttery—it’s a potent mix. For now, they might be wearing cute matching headbands and making side bets on who can get the most steals. But anyone who’s ever overseen toddlers knows that friendly competition can quickly curdle into gory infighting. It will be fascinating to see if this ego-soaked roster produces a title, or a civil war, or, you know, both, in that order.