It was a rough afternoon for the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, and Joel Embiid didn’t make things any easier.
The 76ers struggled at the Wells Fargo Center and fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 112-102, in the first game of their opening-round playoff series. The Nets dominated throughout the matchup, too, holding double-digit leads at multiple points during the contest.
Embiid — who was made available just before the game after battling with a knee injury — didn’t seem fully invested in the game, either.
With Philadelphia down by double digits, Embiid was caught on a replay looking at backup center Amir Johnson’s phone while the two were sitting on the bench.
It appears as if Embiid and Johnson were looking at a text message, though it’s hard to tell exactly what they were looking at from the angle shown on the broadcast. Either way, that’s a terrible look for any player sitting on the bench during a game — especially a playoff game.
ESPN analyst Doris Burke laid into the duo on air, too.
“This is really troublesome to me,” Burke said during the broadcast. “Amir Johnson is not active, but he is on the bench. That’s a cell phone. And I can’t definitively say, but all of us know what a text message looks like. What is that thing doing out, to me ... [Embiid is] smiling. Like, you’re down. That is a very bad look.”
Shortly after that replay was broadcasted, Johnson was seen headed to the locker room.
Amir Johnson headed to the locker room minutes after the broadcast showed he and Joel Embiid going through a phone on the bench. pic.twitter.com/pnKVBKImFr— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 13, 2019
The 76ers fined Johnson after the game for “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Using a phone on the bench during a game is a violation of NBA rules, which can result in fines and suspensions.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said he first learned of the incident after the game when walking down the arena hallway.
“It’s completely unacceptable, and second, we will deal with it internally I’m sure very soon,” Brown said. “It is not something that we are about — and I really don’t even know. I think all of us should learn a little bit more than maybe I do, but on first glance, it is not something that we are and certainly don’t condone, and the club will deal with it.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown on Joel Embiid & Amir Johnson looking at cell phone on bench during Game 1 loss to Nets: "It's completely unacceptable and we will deal with it internally, very soon. It's not something we are and certainly don't condone." pic.twitter.com/oau1n7qj5G— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 13, 2019
According to Embiid, however, Johnson was checking his phone for an update on his sick daughter.
Joel Embiid on cell phone incident on bench with Sixers teammate Amir Johnson during Game 1 loss to Nets: "I looked down because he said his daughter was extremely sick and he was checking on his daughter." pic.twitter.com/hK1lnzbapj— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 13, 2019
Johnson apologized for using his phone after the game.
“I take full responsibility and will accept the consequences of my actions,” Johnson said in a statement, via The Athletic. “I also apologize to my teammates, the 76ers organization and the fans for the distraction this caused.”
Embiid finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds in the loss, but shot just 5-of-13 from the field. Jimmy Butler led the 76ers with 36 points, and Boban Marjanovic added 13 points.
D’Angelo Russell led the Nets with 26 points, shooting 10-of-25 from the field. Caris LeVert added 23 points from the bench, and Joe Harris finished with 13.
Game 2 of the playoff series is scheduled for Monday night.
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