Masked man Embiid eager to drop disguise


BOSTON — Joel Embiid‘s mask may make him look like some kind of superhero, but the Philadelphia 76ers star looks forward to the day when he can play without it.

“With the goggles and everything, I can’t really see,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ shootaround Monday.

Embiid has worn a mask to protect his fractured orbital bone since returning to the court in Game 3 of the Sixers’ series against the Miami Heat. He said Monday that the mask remains “annoying” partially due to the fog that builds up in the goggles connected to it.

The Sixers tried to lessen the fog buildup during their five-day break between series. But it will likely continue to be a nuisance for Embiid during the upcoming series against the Boston Celtics, which begins Monday night at the TD Garden.

Embiid said after shootaround that the mask — which he’s nicknamed “Phantom of the Process” — continues to frustrate him at times on the court.

“I try not to, but sometimes it is [frustrating]. But like I said before, that’s the only way I can be on the court, so I gotta [wear] it,” Embiid said of the mask, which had to be cleared by the NBA, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

Embiid averaged 18.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in three first-round games against the Heat. He shot 42 percent from the floor and had 15 turnovers, which Sixers coach Brett Brown attributed, in part, to Embiid’s long layoff and the foreign nature of his mask.

Before returning April 19, Embiid had missed the previous 10 games due to a concussion and orbital fracture he suffered during a collision with teammate Markelle Fultz.

“It’s really remarkable to me that he performs like he does [after] having really not played much,” Brown said of Embiid, who sat more than three weeks after the March 28 collision. “Now it’s in the playoffs. Now he’s got a mask. Now the mask has a lens. You know, there are some things there that are real that would suggest that he may not be as impactful on the court, and that’s far from the truth.

“He’s really, to me, been amazing with what he’s been able to do,” Brown added. “I think the comfort level that he’s experiencing, just wearing it and playing more and more, is certainly helpful. But we’d all be lying if we didn’t understand that it would be a good day for him when he’s able to take it off and play freely.”

Embiid hopes to shed the mask in about two weeks, when team doctors are scheduled to examine him. In an indication of how much he dislikes the mask, Embiid said he doesn’t wear it regularly during practices and shootarounds between games.

“I should probably always wear it to get used to it. But it’s annoying, so I don’t feel shooting with it,” he said. “… Besides game time, I don’t really see the point in wearing it.”

Sans mask, the Celtics held Embiid to 38 percent shooting in three regular-season games, and he made just one of 12 3-point attempts. Brown acknowledged Monday that the Celtics kept Embiid “honest,” crediting Aron Baynes and Al Horford — and the club’s double-teams — for defending the center well.

“I think the matchups against them this year, I think I’ve taken a lot of jump shots, which has kind of lowered my field goal percentage and kind of reduced my points against them,” Embiid said Monday. “So [on Monday night], I’m going to look to attack more.”

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