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New Madison Square Garden adversary Joel Embiid soaks up Christmas Day spotlight

From NBA media reports

Joel Embiid didn’t need much time to rise to the top of the most despised list at Madison Square Garden. New York fans needed just 34 minutes of the Philadelphia 76ers star on Christmas to give him the distinction so many other visiting stars have enjoyed over the years when taking on their beloved Knicks.

Few athletes on the planet enjoy that sort of spotlight the way Embiid does. So it wasn’t surprising to see him embrace the villain role Monday as the Sixers knocked off the Knicks in the first of five showcase games played around the league. Knicks fans have a new enemy, George Willis of the New York Post reports, an enemy who could be around for years to come:

Thanks to Embiid’s inside muscle and a timely 3-pointer, the Sixers, who had lost five straight and nine of their previous 10 games, earned a rather stunning 105-98 triumph at the Garden. The only thing jolly about all this was Embiid’s attitude after claiming a win in his first Christmas Day appearance.

“That was my first time playing in the Garden, and when I go on the road I love putting on a show,” Embiid said after shooting 8-of-17 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. He also had 16 rebounds. “I felt like we had a lot of fun tonight.”

This playing on Christmas Day stuff is a nuisance to Sixers veteran guard J.J. Redick.

“I’d like to say for about the 10th time that I’m not a fan of playing on Christmas,” Redick said. “I wish we had this holiday for our families.”

Bah humbug!

Embiid, however, couldn’t wait to get on the Garden floor. It was just his second game back after missing three due to back stiffness, and playing against the Knicks seemed like the best present Embiid could have gotten.

“I was so excited to play tonight,” he said. “We’ve been through so much losing, to be able to be one of the few teams that play on this day shows how much we have improved. I was glad to be in this position.”