I don’t know who incepted Joel Embiid, but someone got him to question Philly fans’ faith in him. The All-NBA center has been strangely disconnected this season. The team is lifeless, and you wouldn’t suspect that Embiid leads the league in scoring if he didn’t pop up on the ticker with a 40- or 50-bomb every so often.
He doesn’t seem like his mischievous self, and Wednesday told Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer that Sixers’ fans want him gone.
“Sixers fans, they want to trade me,” Embiid said. Asked if he believes that, he said, “I do believe that. They want to trade me.”
That made headlines because it’s Philly and it’s Embiid, but the whole exchange between the reporter and franchise player read like any other back-and-forth, and it seems like Embiid was just trolling if anything.
The issue with the 76ers is they win just enough games to avoid the should-they-panic news cycle, but not enough to get pundits’ attention. After missing 14 games with a foot injury, James Harden is back in the lineup and producing at a rate befitting his age.
Tyrese Maxey has a more clearly defined role, and boosted his scoring average by nearly five points. With the rest of the roster performing their duties serviceably, and people, including Tobias Harris, accepting that this is who Tobias Harris is going to be, the team is on pace to be who I thought they’d be.
And that’s a streaky squad that might not love going to work and definitely isn’t winning a title. Even though he’s only been there two and a half years, it feels like Doc Rivers has been there for a decade. Whatever stale vibe he emits, it’s mixed with the Embiid-led Sixers to form a massive cloud of apathy that’s enveloping the greater Philadelphia area.
They’re 15-12 and are going to need to develop a sense of urgency if they want home-court advantage in any round. Perhaps Embiid is merely projecting, saying Sixers fans want him gone when really he might be the one who’s actually over the procession of missteps the organization has made more or less since he arrived.
Bryan Colangelo’s burner account, Brett Brown staying on long enough to trade hometown Mikal Bridges on draft day, the team opting to pay Harris over Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons’ tenure and exit, Daryl Morey trading for Harden when Embiid was on pace for the MVP, constant roster turnover, and hiring Rivers, who’s done nothing but collapse in the playoffs since that one title in Boston.
Speaking of MVP, Jayson Tatum, Luka Dončić, and Giannis Antetokuonmpo currently all have better odds for the award that Embiid and Philly campaigned for a season ago like it was a Senate race in Georgia. The Sixers’ cornerstone has better stats and PER than all three of those guys, and the only players ahead of him in PER are Nikola Jokić and Anthony Davis. The Joker isn’t winning another one, and the Lakers will have to finish substantially above .500 for AD to get any love.
Experts, general NBA fans, sportswriters, and everybody but Philly fans are overlooking what Embiid is doing again. It may not feel like it because the Eagles are in first place in the NFC, and the Phillies just made a run to the World Series. Yet, the only Philly fans who want Embiid gone are the ones inside his head.
And if Joel needs any guidance right now, it’s a roadmap far away from the trappings of his own creation.