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Joel Embiid: How Long Can We Continue to Trust the Process?

Once again, the Philadelphia 76ers are in the same boat as they’ve been in the previous few years. Losing in the second round to the Boston Celtics, the team once again failed to reach the Conference Finals in the Joel Embiid era. Every year the Sixers are known as contenders but many are non-believers. The question surrounding the franchise is how much longer is the organization going to trust the process.


As I’ve said on many occasions, Embiid is the most skilled center in the NBA today. While Nikola Jokic tends to be a walking triple-double, he doesn’t possess the perimeter game that Embiid has in his package. Without any support, Embiid can get to his spots and torch defenders with his size and footwork. It plays a huge role in why he won this season's Most Valuable Player award. 


While Embiid continues to be the franchise player for Philadelphia, the question is does he have the qualities of being a leader for a championship team? It’s great to see him be great on offense and elevate defensively as a rim protector. However, a leader has to elevate the play of his team as well. He must hold others accountable for their play but also in the correct manner. While Embiid called out his teammate's play in the Game 7 postgame interview, there could’ve been a better way of discussing his frustration with the media. 


While the Eastern Conference has continued to improve throughout the years, Embiid has been placed in positions to win a championship on several occasions. During the 2018-19 campaign, the Sixers traded for All-Star Jimmy Butler, who at the time became their vocal leader. Butler set the tone on both ends and allowed the Sixers to be many fan favorites to win the East. They e were even close to making the Conference Finals. Then Kawhi Leonard happened, knocking down one of the biggest shots in playoff history to send Philadelphia back home in tears. 


2021 happens and it’s the first year under the new and improved Sixers with head coach Doc Rivers. To me, Embiid elevated his offensive play during Rivers’ arrival while being more in attack mode inside the three-point line. If it weren’t for injuries, many believe he would’ve won the MVP Award. He averaged 28 & 10 on the season on 51 percent shooting from the floor. 


The Sixers collapsed during the second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. Many can blame Ben Simmons for the horrific showing in Game 7. However, it was a team collective. The Sixers blew a double-digit lead in Game 5 while losing Game 7, which were two home games. Embiid had 8 costly turnovers in the final game which played a role in Atlanta making their way to the Conference Finals




Less than a year later, Simmons is gone which brings in James Harden. If anyone says that there wasn’t pressure on the star duo, they’re lying. This is the same duo that former NBA player Kendrick Perkins compared to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. While the two worked well on offense in pick-and-roll situations, the playoff resume of Joel Embiid and James Harden was not great. With that being said, it was time for the duo to change that narrative together. 


The Sixers lost to the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2022 playoffs., which sent them home early once again. A year later, Philadelphia is preparing for Game 7  on the road at TD Garden. The team lost home-court advantage in Game 6, which would have closed the series out. How do they respond? 24 points combined from their two best players, as their MVP shot 5/18 with 15 points. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum doubled the duo’s combined points with 51 himself. In pressure situations, that’s where star players shine the most. Unfortunately, Embiid wasn’t able to deliver a win with a monster performance of his own. 


The media will blame Doc Rivers for his lack of adjustments in the final two games of the series. However, the star players still have to show up when it matters most. Looking at the overview of Joel Embiid’s career, he’s accomplished everything from All-Star appearances to his first MVP trophy. However, what’s missing from his resume is an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. 


As the years continued, Embiid has watched his peers continue to reach success in the playoffs. Nikola Jokic is currently in his second Conference Finals appearance. Both Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler respectively led their teams to the NBA Finals. Let’s also not forget to mention Giannis Antetokounmpo winning an NBA championship. Meanwhile, the Sixers center continues to be stuck in the same spot, which is no NBA Finals appearance and no experience of being one of the last teams standing to compete for an NBA title. 


Does the question remain should Sixers fans continue to trust the process? It was great for the city to experience a player winning another MVP trophy. However, regular season awards are not enough. It’s been 40 years since the Philadelphia 76ers won an NBA title and they continue to await for their next one. Will Embiid ever be able to deliver? Seven years later, it’s the same question that seems to revolve around him. 



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