Although they were biased, pretty much everybody in the Philadelphia 76ers locker room believed that Sixers center Joel Embiid was the NBA's Most Valuable Player this season. That includes the head coach, Doc Rivers.
Two months ago, to no surprise, Rivers considered Embiid his pick for MVP, with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic coming in second.
While Embiid was considered the favorite for a good portion of the season, a knee injury halfway through the year affected his chances of winning as he missed ten straight games after missing a handful of games throughout the first half of the season.
Embiid believed he still had a good chance of winning the award when he was named one of three finalists a few weeks back. But on Tuesday, hours before tipping off Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers found out their guy wouldn't take home the MVP hardware this season.
Shortly after the news broke, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers addressed the media in his routine pregame press conference ahead of Game 2. When asked about Embiid's "snub," Rivers was hardly surprised to see the voting swayed in Jokic's favor.
“Listen, there’s a lot of great, great candidates,” Rivers said. “Between Jokic and Joel, I think it was a two-man race. I guess you can say Steph (Curry) was thrown in there at the end the way he made a charge and just so many great players in our league."
Both Jokic and Embiid had fantastic seasons as far as production goes, but Denver's big man stayed healthy all year long and even helped elevate his team when one of the Nuggets' star players went down a few months ago.
Many argue the attendance factor shouldn't make much of a difference, but Rivers believes that was perhaps where Jokic won over the voters.
"I do think probably the deciding factor was games played," the coach explained. “I think that that helped, for sure, but even if they both played a lot of games, it still would have been a very difficult choice. I was obviously hoping for our guy, but you can’t take anything away from Jokic.”