Despite Joel Embiid doing all he could to alter the path of Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning corner shot, the ball eventually made its way through the hoop after bouncing on the rim four times and vaporized the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff dreams. No one had to guess how Joel Embiid felt. His tears did all the talking. Not to sound hateful or celebrate a person feeling down, but this was one of the best things that could have happened to Joel Embiid’s NBA career.
Loss fuels motivation. Not only are negative experiences never forgotten, but they are also easy to recall. Despite winning multiple Super Bowls, Tom Brady continues to carry the “6th Round Draft Pick” chip on his shoulder. By the way, Kawhi experienced his own crushing defeat when Ray Allen’s corner three sank the Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Next year, the Spurs would get their revenge. The fact that Kawhi’s shot sailed over Embiid’s outstretched hand should provide the proper image to use when the offseason workouts get a little tiresome.
We know Embiid genuinely cares about basketball. For a team’s best player to feel this way, it’s like winning the sports lottery – talent teamed with love for the game. Too many times people ignore the human element in sports, focusing on a player’s attribute values instead of the obvious question, “Does the player even care about the sport, or is it just about the money?” A player who cares only about the money rarely leads a team to the promised land, because that path requires true grit to navigate or remove all the stones blocking the path. Plus, people are not usually inspired by “money only” players.
Joel Embiid has the talent to become the league’s MVP. No other center can match his handle, his ability to drive the line and finish at the rim. He executes guard-worthy spin moves.
Motivation, focus, and talent…what could go wrong?
The Sixers’ roster, although talented enough to win a title, may not employ the correct pieces for the style of play that would maximize Embiid’s skillset. Instead of feeding the ball to Embiid close to the basket where he could either score or demand a double-team, Embiid often finds himself with the ball at the elbow or in 3-point range. His point guard, Ben Simmons won’t shoot the jumper, even the medium-range type, Jimmy Butler is more of a scorer versus a shooter, and while J.J. Reddick and Tobias Harris provide some 3-point shooting, the team could use more outside shooting help. By the way, J.J. Reddick, Tobias Harris, and Jimmy Butler are free agents, so the team will have tough decisions to deal with regarding three main contributors from this year’s team.
To further complicate matters, Sixers’ head coach Brett Brown may not have made enough adjustments during the playoffs to prove worthy of keeping his job. Why not stagger Ben Simmons’ and Joel Embiid’s minutes so that Embiid could rest, and Simmons could play close to the basket on offense? Embiid never getting the ball after establishing his position in the post was a waste of Embiid’s skill. [* Update * Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Brett Brown will return as head coach.]
The roster may need a little sprucing up, but this should not deter anyone from betting on the Sixers in the future. In Embiid, they have a top five player who could become the best player in the league, and we know there is no substitute for superstars; especially, in the NBA. Toronto rolled the dice with Kawhi this year knowing he may leave for another team at the end of the season. Please see the Golden State Warriors enlisting of Kevin Durant as evidence of how much firepower it takes to bring down the league’s most dominant player, LeBron James.
The “smart money” should always side with the properly motivated superstar, and Philly’s “Crown Jewel” should fill that role next year.