PHILADELPHIA — Most coaches prefer a quiet crowd when one of their players are shooting free throws, figuring the calm can only help the player’s concentration on converting the unguarded 15-foot shot.
Not Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown, however. When Sixers rookie center Joel Embiid shoots free throws at the Wells Fargo Center, Philly’s hometown fans have developed a custom of chanting “Trust the process!” as the big man readies himself for the freebies. And Brown is all for it.
“I do [like it],” Brown said before the Sixers’ 112-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. “I do. You know, I think we need something like that in this city and I’m not frowning upon that. We want to have some fun.”
Of course, the chant has a hint of sarcasm the Philadelphia faithful is known for. Embiid became the face of former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie’s reign over the team when Philadelphia went 37-199 in three seasons while it stockpiled young assets — like the former No. 3 pick out of Kansas — that it had to wait to see mature into contributors.
With 9:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, Embiid went to the line with the Sixers trailing by one. Sure enough, the “Trust the process!” chants echoed through the arena and Embiid hit both shots to briefly recapture the lead for his team. Embiid shot 3-for-5 from the line overall, below the 77.8 percent mark he came into the game connecting on.
After everything that Philadelphia has been through the past few seasons, Brown sees the chant as nothing but a positive for his slowly improving 4-13 team.
“I think it’s all good,” Brown said. “I’m personally at a stage that you get — and I say this in a positive way — you’re sort of numb to scrutiny. You’re numb to taking the massive amounts of hits that we’re all — and I say it personally, with the team — you feel hardened. You just got another layer of armor. And so the fans standing, the fans on us, the fans with us — I see our world clearly and we’re not blinking.
“We’re not going to veer to the right or the left. And when the crowd gets going with ‘the process’ and Joel anoints himself ‘Trust the process,’ there’s a side of it, I say, ‘Good for the crowd, good for Joel,’ and none of us are going to take ourselves too serious.”
Helping things is Embiid’s stellar rookie season that featured another fine output Sunday with 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. The momentum behind his rookie of the year campaign only continues to build after he missed the past two seasons with multiple foot surgeries.
“How many times do you see over our past few years where somebody is going to go stalk somebody down, like LeBron [James], in open court at 7-2, at 275 pounds and bat it off of the board and then look at the crowd … and want Philadelphia to stand up, and Philadelphia stands up?” Brown said, recalling a block Embiid had on James the last time the Sixers hosted the Cavs. “And he’ll pound, pound [with his dribble and then] dunk. And he’ll flex and he’ll go to the line and Philadelphia stands up.
“And there is a confidence that I love because it’s also mirrored by talent. There’s a toughness that this city demands — it’s Philadelphia — that I just think this city is going to wrap their arms around him the more he plays. He’s still like a gangling 20-something-year-old to me … And that doesn’t cloud his mojo, his swagger, his attitude and I love it. I love it. It’s what our program needs.”