Time to trade Embiid? Soon. Very Soon.

Time to trade Embiid? Soon. Very Soon.


     I consider myself one of Joel Embiid’s most loyal supporters. When other were ripping apart The Process, I stood by the gifted center, arguing that there is simply no one who matches his uncommon arsenal of talents.

     Sacrificing four seasons to get the top pick was a lot. So was he.

     But enough is (almost) enough. I’m tired of the bogus drama, tired of the playoff failures, and especially tired of the unfulfilled expectations. If the Sixers lose before the conference finals this season – even worse, if they lose the current first-round series to the New York Knicks – then it will be time to trade the enigma while he still has some value.

      The meltdown in the final seconds of the Game 2 loss in Madison Square Garden was at least partly the responsibility of a blind officiating crew – how did none of them see coach Nick Nurse’s time-out signal? – but it also obscured an all-too-familiar failure by Embiid with the game on the line.

      At seven feet, Embiid is easily the best rebounder on a rebound-deprived roster, but not in the final moments of playoff games. Once again, the Knicks got extra opportunities at the end of Game 2 because, once again, the Sixers couldn’t corral a key rebound. Embiid is just never in the right spot at the right time.

     Here’s a stat none of the kiss-ass Philadelphia media is reporting today: Josh Hart, a 6-4 guard on the Knicks, has 28 rebounds in the first two games. Embiid has 18. That is utterly absurd.

     My growing frustration with the big Cameroon center goes way beyond the stat sheet. More and more, Embiid is taking on the appearance of a soft player – a player not at all in keeping with the style of his blue-collar city.

      All of the knee drama over the past couple of months is a tired narrative for Embiid in his eighth NBA season. At the very least, he needs a new script writer.

     How many straight years now has he been listed as questionable before a big game and then appeared to be fine once the game began? Lots of other players in other sports use a similar drama playbook, but none do it more often or more shamelessly than Embiid.

      And the build-up always follows the same pattern. First, there’s the mandatory mishap on the court that will reduce him to a writhing, groaning victim of injustice. Will he be able to play? Ever? Will he die right there on the court?

     Then he emerges from the locker room, despite a pronounced limp, and bravely returns to the game. Soon, there will be widespread, breathless speculation about his status for the next big contest. The media lapdogs monitoring his every move will fall for the ruse over and over again, season after season.

     Embiid learned this fake drama stuff from the best – Michael Jordan was the modern hero of milking every moment like this. But eventually even his act got old, as did he. The Sixers will be smart not to wait that long before they declare The Process an unmitigated disaster and trade a superstar who still fills seats but clearly will never win an NBA championship.

      I consider myself an expert on whining; I did it for 33 years on WIP. I’m sure if I were on the air the morning after Game 2, I would have howled until I was hoarse about the officiating at the end of Game 2. It was not just my job. It was my nature.

      But it is most definitely not Embiid’s job. He needs to understand now, at 31, that he just comes off as an excuse-maker, a player too soft to overcome the inevitable obstacles that every good team faces.

      “That’s just unacceptable, to put us in that situation,” he complained after the loss. “That’s bleeping unacceptable to lose a game like this, especially in the playoffs. . . . We should be up 2-0, so we’re good. We should be winning this series. We’re going to win this. . . . We’re the better team and we’re going to keep fighting.”

      He did not address how he could be outrebounded in the first two games, 28-18, by a shooting guard eight inches shorter than him, but he had nothing to worry about. It wasn’t as if any of the local media would ask him about that.

     What it comes down to in the end is heart. Jordan certainly had it. So did Allen Iverson, despite his lack of championship rings. Nicola Jokic has it. Giannis Antetokounmpo has it. Embiid doesn’t have it.

     So, barring a miracle finish this season, the time is arriving.

     Goodbye, Joel Embiid.

     This time, the only thing that will get hurt is his feelings.


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