76ers’ Joel Embiid criticizes Raptors fans after returning from injury

Wearing a mask to protect the orbital fracture he suffered against the Raptors, Joel Embiid was scheduled to play in Game 3 of the Sixers' series against Miami on Friday night. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid isn’t holding a grudge against Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam for a play that caused an orbital fracture and mild concussion in the first round of the playoffs, but he did make a point of expressing his disappointment with the team’s fans on Friday.

Embiid was asked about Siakam’s elbow to the face after he returned to the Sixers’ lineup for their win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. Quickly, his response shifted to the treatment he got from Raptors fans during the six-game series.

“I don’t think it was intentional, that’s my guy, obviously,” Embiid said of Siakam, a fellow Cameroon native. “It’s unfortunate, I don’t think he meant to do it.

“I was more irritated by the perception of when that happened, really the fans. I’ve always thought they’ve had great fans, but it kind of changed my mind about the fans up there. Whether it was throughout the series, the F chants and all that stuff, that’s cool. It never gets to me anyways, but I think they got mad because I did the airplane celebration.”

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Embiid’s trademark airplane pose came on the preceding play in the fourth quarter of a series-ending blowout win for the 76ers in Game 6. Less than a minute later, Siakam elbowed Embiid in the face while going to the rim. After review, it was called an offensive foul.

Embiid was in the headlines all series — first for telling Raptors coach Nick Nurse not to complain about fouls in Game 1 and then mockingly applauding officials for calls he didn’t like in a Game 4 loss. He then criticized the refs in his post-game press conference and was fined $15,000.

The behaviour of NBA fans has been in the spotlight recently.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors gave the middle finger to Memphis Grizzlies fans earlier this week after he was elbowed in the face by Grizzlies big man Xavier Tillman.

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“I’ll take the fine, I’ll go do an appearance and make up the money,” Green said. “But, it felt really good to flip ’em off. You gonna boo someone that gets elbowed in the eye, blood running down your face, I could have had a concussion or anything. If they gonna be that nasty, then I can be nasty too. I’m assuming the cheers was because they knew I would get fined. Great. I make $25 million a year, I should be just fine.”

Green was fined $25,000 by the NBA.

In the first round, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving also gave the middle finger to Boston Celtics fans.

Irving was fined $50,000.

“It’s been going on in a few arenas these days where fans feel like it’s OK to just say F somebody,” Embiid said. “There’s a bunch of kids in the arena. I don’t think that should be OK even if there weren’t kids. But it’s almost like if you respond to it … in the Draymond situation, the league fines you. So to me, it doesn’t bother me. I’m just speaking for really everybody in the NBA … If you give it, you also got to be able to take it.”

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