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January 20, 2017

Fan support provides silver-lining as Embiid must wait to find out all-star fate

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will have to wait until Thursday to find out if he'll be named one of the reserves in next month's NBA All-Star Game.

The 22-year-old finished fourth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players, one spot behind where he needed to be in order to be named a starter. He finished third in the fan vote, which would've been enough to get a starting spot any other year. 

But because of the changes made to the voting process this year, which included a media (25%) and player (25%) vote in addition to the fan vote (50%), Embiid was left on the outside looking in. His fifth-place finish among media members and eighth-place finish in the player vote moved him behind Bulls forward Jimmy Butler and into a tie with Cavaliers forward Kevin Love -- a tie Embiid would've won because he finished with more fan votes.

Still, the rookie seven-footer was upbeat when speaking to reporters about the results following Friday's shoot around. 

“I’m not disappointed," Embiid said of not being named a starter. "The fans gave everything they had. I came up short, but I was happy. I was just happy to see that the fans support me. They’re behind me and they want me to succeed. That’s what I took from it.”

As for his fellow NBA players, who showed the least amount of support for Embiid...

Embiid's biggest beef with the electoral process didn't have anything to do with the changes that ultimately were the difference between him making it or not. 

Instead, he seemed more interested on having a separate category for centers, which makes perfect sense when you consider none of the three Eastern Conference frontcourt starters -- LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Butler -- is anywhere near a traditional center. 

“I’ve said this before, there’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” said Embiid, who added that he's "not even mad" because the fans still have his back. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the all-star ballot. 

"But I’m not disappointed. I’ve just got to keep going out there and competing and winning games and helping my teammates.”

Heading into Friday night's game against the Trail Blazers, Embiid was averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in 25.4 minutes. He's also been one of the best defensive players in the entire league.

That was on display in Wednesday's win over the Raptors in which the Sixers held the NBA's second-best offense to just 89 points, 22 points below their season average.

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Now, Embiid's fate is in the hands of current NBA coaches, who will pick the reserves for both teams. And at least one of those coaches, albeit his own, likes the rookie's chances.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin