PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid phoned it in.
ESPN cameras caught Embiid and 76ers teammate Amir Johnson looking at the latter’s cell phone during the Nets’ 111-102 Game 1 win on Saturday.
It is a violation of NBA rules — commissioner Adam Silver was in attendance at Wells Fargo Center — and one that understandably vexed Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.
“It’s completely unacceptable and we will deal with it internally, very soon,” Brown said. “It’s not something we are and certainly don’t condone.”
Very soon turned out to be within hours, with the 76ers fining Johnson.
“The 76ers organization has fined Amir Johnson for conduct detrimental to the team. I have addressed the matter with Amir directly and he understands why his actions were unacceptable,” Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. “We are moving forward together with our full focus now on Game 2.”
The Nets were rolling along, leading 104-88 with 6:20 left in the game when Embiid and Johnson were caught looking at the phone.
Embiid promptly caught heat from broadcaster Doris Burke and on social media. For his part, the 76ers center said he was just discussing his teammate’s ailing child.
“Obviously, I wasn’t on my phone,” Embiid said. “I just looked down because he said that his daughter was extremely sick, and he was checking on her. So, I don’t know. I just looked. But he was checking on his daughter. She’s sick.”
Johnson later apologized in a statement.
“I apologize for having my phone on the bench in today’s game. I take full responsibility and will accept the consequences of my actions,” Johnson said. “I also apologize to my teammates, the 76ers organization and the fans for the distraction this has caused.”
It temporarily replaced the distraction Embiid’s own health had caused. After both Embiid and Brand had said they weren’t sure if Embiid’s sore knee would allow him to play in Game 1, the center was listed as doubtful and was a gametime decision.
Embiid started and had 22 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. But he shot just 5-of-15 overall, missed all five of his 3-pointers and committed three turnovers and a technical foul for throwing Jared Dudley to the ground.
Oh, and one major cellular faux pas.
“This is really troubling to me,” Burke said during the broadcast. “Amir Johnson is not active, but he is on the bench and that’s a cell phone. I can’t definitely say, but all of us know what a text message looks like. Like, what is that thing doing out to me.”
The sellout crowd of 20,437 showered the Sixers were boos throughout much of the game. After giving up a 20-1 run that spanned the first and second quarters, the home team was jeered loudly and often.
“I love the fans, and I’ve never said anything about them. They all show us a lot of love. I mean, [the booing is] understandable,” Embiid said. “They come in, they pay a lot of money. They want a game to be entertaining. They want to watch us win. So I understand why they boo.”
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