76ers' Joel Embiid Opens up About his 'Uncomfortable' 2020 NBA Season
Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said at times this season he simply wasn't having fun. As the Sixers made significant changes during the offseason, the Sixers' big man lost two players that he believed were key to his and the 76ers' success. Veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick inked a deal with the Pelicans, while Jimmy Butler requested a sign and trade so he could land with the Miami Heat.
Those moves led Brett Brown to change the Sixers' offensive gameplan, leaving Embiid uncomfortable in the new system. "[The transition of lineups affected me] a lot," Embiid admitted to JJ Redick on 'The Old Man and the Three' Podcast this week.
"You can see with the numbers," Embiid explained. "I don't care about the stats because I feel like if I really cared about the stats and wanted to score a lot every night, I could just be a blackhole and shoot whenever I want to and not pass it to anybody. It was just such a difference-maker because you know last year when they were doubling me, I was either inviting it, or l was like 'okay, I'm not going to post up anymore, and I'm just going to go to that two-man game [with Redick],' because I know I'm going to get you a shot. And once you make two or three, they are going to come up, and that will change everything, and they will leave me open."
With a heavy focus on defense this year, the Sixers failed to find reliable shooting during the offseason to help create spacing on the floor. That's been a consistent complaint from Embiid throughout the entirety of the season as the All-Star big man was having a tough time adjusting to the change without a Redick or Butler on the team.
"The offense we've been using the past four or five years, that wasn't the offense for this team," said Embiid. "It was completely different. You don't have a JJ Redick, and you don't have a Jimmy Butler who is going to go through pick and rolls. It was different. I'm not going to lie, during this season I wasn't there I just wasn't comfortable. The offense wasn't the same -- basketball was not the same to me. The way things happened last summer was so frustrating. I was mad at the whole world, and was just like 'eh, whatever.' [It was like] I'm just coming to work, and I'm going to do my best, but I wasn't playing up to my standards. It was hard -- it was a big change."
Although Embiid's 2020 season before the suspension wasn't ideal, the big man did make it clear that he has come around to this year's team at this point. And Embiid credits the NBA's bubble down in Orlando for helping the Sixers come together. "I think we're getting it," Embiid claimed. "I think the last month we've spent in the bubble has helped us a lot. I think we've come closer."
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_