Has Joel Embiid Taken His Role Seriously This Season? Brett Brown Weighs in
The last couple of weeks have been quite the roller coaster for Philadelphia 76ers center, Joel Embiid. Actually, scratch that. The entire season has been a roller coaster ride for Embiid. As the season was beginning, many expected a much slimmer, more in-shape, and motivated to want to win MVP Joel Embiid to take the floor for the Sixers in 2019.
But for some reason, it doesn't look like he has taken that next step at times. So far this year, Embiid's production is down on the offensive side of the ball. He's averaging five less points-per-game, shooting two-percent less from the field, and not bringing down as many rebounds consistently.
Mix that in with the fact that he has seen a couple of notable injuries keeping him out of 16 games this year, and some questionable body language at times, and it seems to some that Embiid hasn't quite taken his role seriously this season.
None of this is a shot in the air from a paranoid fanbase, either. There have been times this season where Embiid revealed he had taken opponents lightly at times so he can necessarily preserve his health and energy for the postseason. Take the Christmas day game over the Bucks, for example.
After the win over Milwaukee, Embiid said the following. . . "My goal is to get to the playoffs healthy, but if my team needs me, I'm going to show up. When I'm needed, I'm going to show up. Hopefully, I'm healthy for playoffs. It's going to be a different story."
While Embiid's goal of taking it easy so he can get to the playoffs healthy makes sense, it's still a questionable strategy considering the Sixers need him to be the player he's expected to be on a daily basis so they can get a favorable seed in the tournament.
Since he hasn't played like a superstar consistently, fans have called him out in typical Philly fashion by booing him. For the first time, Embiid felt attacked by a fan base that has stuck with him through tons of ups and downs. And for that, he trolled them as a means to 'get back' at those who have given him a hard time recently.
Embiid's reason for chirping back made all the sense in the world. "If they can dish it, they should be able to take it." That sounds fair. However, were the fans correct for booing him in the first place? Has Joel Embiid taken his role as a veteran leader on the Sixers seriously this year? Recently, Embiid's head coach Brett Brown weighed in on the situation.
"I do [believe he has taken his role seriously], and let me double-down in a way you wouldn't all see. If you were the security camera at our practice facility, you're going to see him there at 12, 12:30 at night repetitively. Not so long ago, you see his finger swinging on national TV, and a few weeks later he comes back and has that [splint]. All of us would be quite naive to think that doesn't affect his game."
Brown's first point is valid. He's right, not everybody knows the exact hours Embiid puts into his game, and I will say, Embiid is typically one of the last players on the court continuing to work on his game at practice before and during the season, for what it's worth. However, working overtime is half the battle. Embiid is supposed to be a leader at this point in his career -- so has he become that?
"It's not ideal," Brown said in regards to Embiid's occasional 'out of bounds' step on social media. "Could he do better? We all could. I feel like there's a little bit of fairness that needs to be extended to him. The ones that know what has really gone on behind closed doors at midnight. Team meetings where things are said that nobody is really aware of. I'll always want more from myself, from Ben [Simmons], from Joel, and I feel confident and comfortable saying what I just said."
To summarize it all, Brown would have a hard time trying to say Embiid hasn't worked on improving himself as a player. The effort is there on the practice court, but he failed to acknowledge Embiid's effort on game nights when he looks gassed or uninterested. As for being a leader, it sounds like everybody not named Josh Richardson could use some work in becoming better leaders within the locker room. There's hope in Philly that things are on the rise as the final stretch of the season inches closer.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_