Joel Embiid’s MVP-The caliber season could collapse tonight if he can’t lead his Philadelphia 76ers to a win over the Miami Heat. If Philly is sent to the semifinals again, it will be the fourth time in five years that has happened. Two things are clear about Embiid’s situation in Philly:
1.) The narrative of Embiid changes from him being a great player who’s rising to a great player who can’t make it in big moments.
2.) The guy just can’t take a break with supposed star teammates not producing and the frequent injuries that mean he misses a lot of time each year.
This narrative is the easiest for Joel to change as he can influence this the most by winning. This is Embiid’s sixth NBA season (he missed his first two years through injury) and he has yet to make a conference finals. As the top player in the series against Miami, it was expected by many that Embiid and the Sixers would deal with Miami fairly quickly. That was not the case. Embiid was injured, missing the first two games, then coming back for games three and four well playedand Philly was able to tie the series at two games apiece.
Then Game 5 happened. That was a game where Embiid and Philly could have crushed Miami’s spirits and won three games in a row and won on the Heat’s home court. Instead, the Sixers looked shattered and lost by 35 points. Embiid was the top scorer for Philadelphia with 17 fucking points. I know he’s not 100 percent, but when is Joel Embiid ever fully sane? And this isn’t the first time Embiid has had a chance to establish himself among the top Superstars and the league and he has failed.
In March, the Sixers played a game against the Bucks in which Embiid was great against Giannis Antetokounmpo, scoring 29 points, catching 14 rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Then came gain time. With seconds remaining, Embiid had the opportunity to send the game into overtime with a dunk, but opted for a layup instead and let Giannis eat up his shot. This game took place in the middle of the MVP race, and Embiid could have put a stamp on the race.
Two weeks earlier, the Sixers played another game where Embiid could have flown his MVP flag against eventual winner Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Joel played well, recording 34 points and nine rebounds, but Denver won a close game 114-110. Embiid talks about the odds being against him to become an MVP in recent years, but when he gets the chance to show voters it’s useless. Two significant wins in the final month of the season against the two players Embiid has been battling for MVP would have gone a long way for his MVP case.
It is But Embiid still hasn’t won MVP and is close to being knocked out in the second round. Even though Jokic has won back-to-back MVP awards, there’s still a group of people who think Embiid is the best center in the game. Jokic has an appearance in the conference finals on his resume. I don’t care if it happened in the Orlando bubble. Embiid and his Sixers were bounced in the same bubble in the first round. And we know what Giannis has done over the last two years to change his narrative. He led his team to the final and won.
So, it can be done. Joel can completely flip the narrative, and it starts with staying alive against the Heat and taking the series to Game 7. In Game 7, the stars shine brightest. If Embiid really wants superstar status, then he needs to make it to the conference finals. Pretty soon, the excuses and finger-pointing won’t be enough. And there was a lot of that for and by Embiid.
For years, the excuse was to trust “The Process,” for which Sam Hinkie (rightly) took the blame, even after his death. The team was young and at least made it to the playoffs, so Embiid got a pass. Then it was Ben Simmons and if he ever would come alive to its potential.
After Game 7 against Atlanta last postseason, Embiid pointed the finger at Simmons. But that streak shouldn’t have resulted in this situation in Game 7 anyway. Once again, Embiid was let off the hook and allowed to blame someone else.
If the 76ers lose to The Heat, it’ll be James Harden’s fault this time, right? hardening is as hell of his former self and could never trust him in the postseason anyway. Or maybe he’ll turn on Doc Rivers and throw his bus under the bus should they get eliminated by Miami.
No more excuses.
It’s time for Embiid to throw this team on his back and wear it like the superstar he wants to be. Harden certainly won’t, and there’s only so much Rivers can do from the sidelines. Joel’s superstar status is at stake in these playoffs. It’s up to Embiid to figure out how this narrative ends.