Whether he’s announcing a signature sneaker or simply addressing the press after a home game, Joel Embiid manages to stay on NBA fans’ minds even when he’s out with an injury. He most recently turned heads with a claim that he was “the best player in the world“.
Most analysts wouldn’t even give him the title of best player in the East. Giannis locked down the MVP award last year and seems on pace to do it again. But Embiid doesn’t seem to care. After an up-and-down season so far in Philadelphia, he’s ready to stop listening to fans and critics as he speaks his mind again.
Joel Embiid’s decision to go mask off
From his debut in the league in 2016 to this season, Joel Embiid gleefully joined in with the raucous social media circus of the NBA. But he’s toned it down in 2019-2020, putting his ego and online trolling aside for the sake of the team.
That is, until now. Over the past week or two, Embiid argued with former teammate Jimmy Butler and the fans, eventually declaring that he was back to “doing whatever he wanted.” Embiid went on to say:
“I’m back to doing whatever I want and saying whatever I want. That’s how I used to be, and you know, I was dominating that way. This year I made a decision to change, and I guess it hasn’t worked out”
The choice’s impact on the team
Whether it makes more sense for Joel Embiid to quiet down and play with the team or go full-on ego trip is still up in the air. The Milwaukee Bucks recently managed to claim a playoff spot (on February 23, the earliest ever).
But behind the Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics, the East is wide open. It would take a massive string of bad luck for the 76ers to miss the playoffs since they’re 15 games ahead of the 9th-place Wizards with 24 games to go. Perhaps it’s best that Philly goes through their growing pains now so they can go into April and May at 100%.
An interesting note is that the 76ers possess the best home-court advantage in the NBA. Period. Those Milwaukee Bucks previously mentioned? 26-3 at home. Incredible. The West-leading Lakers are 20-7. But the 76ers are an unstoppable 27-2 in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center.
For a team with such an unstoppable home presence, it makes sense to climb the standings and hold onto home-court as deep into the playoffs as possible.
Joel Embiid is keeping an eye on the prize
At 6.5 games behind the 2nd-place Raptors (as of February 25), the 76ers have plenty to play for during the rest of the season. Between 2005 and 2017, Philadelphia didn’t finish a single season over .500. Embiid’s presence (and the rest of The Process) has given the city hope even as some of the rough spots were particularly difficult for 76ers fans.
The last time Philadelphia lifted the championship trophy, Ronald Reagan had just been elected. No current NBA players had even been born yet. Allen Iverson took them to the finals in 2001 but Kobe and Shaq were simply too much and Philly hasn’t been past the conference semi-finals since.
Constant media attention and fan expectations make it easy to forget that Embiid is only 25. He’ll likely continue to get better for another 5-6 years, and maybe the 76ers’ time will come later this decade. But if they want it to happen now, Embiid and the team need to straighten themselves out.
Embiid’s bold decision could certainly help the team — but it could also send them spiraling out of the playoff race. Either way, the fans are lucky to get to see it play out.