So earlier today we did the post about Charles Barkley, who thinks the Sixers “ain’t got no chance” to reach the NBA finals after originally making that prediction before the season began.
That line came from a postgame TNT discussion between Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith, the bulk of which centered around Embiid’s play and whether or not we were seeing the best of what he has to offer in 2019.
Stephen A Smith, who yesterday identified himself as the most annoying person in sports, echoed those sentiments with a take that I do not find unreasonable:
.@stephenasmith is having questions about Joel Embiid's attitude.
"Is there anybody that you hate?!" pic.twitter.com/lnvWvyhCG2
— First Take (@FirstTake) December 11, 2019
Screamin’ A –
“What we’re saying about Joel Embiid is, you have those skills, you’re that great of a talent. When we are looking at you, is there anybody that you hate?
Is there something inside of you that just goes like, ‘you know what, I went through a lot to get here, I got an attitude with all of y’all, let me get on a seek and destroy mission.’ That is what Shaq and Barkley are talking about, and they are right about that.”
Let the record show that I agree with Stephen A Smith’s take on Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal’s takes. Embiid has had some fantastic performances this year (Sacramento, Indy, at Atlanta), but the reason he and Ben Simmons take some crap both in this town and nationally is because people see All-NBA ceilings for both of those players. They see greatness, and that’s why the bar is raised. It truly does come from a place of Posidelphia, not Negadelphia, which might be hard to believe, but that’s the case. Critics are just looking for that killer instinct.
Of course it’s only December, and Joel has been in and out of the lineup a bit. The scoring burden is shared by guys like Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, but the main gripe is that people feel like Embiid is the same player he was last year and the year before. You see that evidence in the careless turnovers and sometimes lackadaisical three-point and mid-range shooting he exhibits during a game. That’s part of it, the idea that areas of weakness remain areas of weakness, which is partly on him, partly on Brett Brown, and partly on the tricky redundancy of his skill-set overlap with Simmons.
The other part of it is the evolution of an Embiid from a maturity standpoint.
Joel himself said last night that he’s trying to find the line between having fun and enjoying himself while acting in a more composed way, one that can be less detrimental to his team. It’s a balancing act, and in a pair of responses to the media last night, he alluded to the adjustment he’s trying to make in helping himself reach that next level without losing the attitude and drive that got him here in the first place:
Joel Embiid was asked about hyping up the crowd during today's win over the Nuggets. He took it in an unexpected direction.
"Everybody tells me that I gotta be mature. So I'm doing it. And I don't think it's working, but I'm gonna keep doing it."
Full exchange below. pic.twitter.com/66BfGs63ps
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 11, 2019
It’s not easy, that evolution. He’s trying to be a different Joel Embiid in 2019 while trying to hold on to the quirky demeanor and attitude that makes him who he is. Can you motivate yourself without trash talking? Can you trash talk without hurting your team? Can you have fun and enjoy the game while handling the constant noise from fans and media? He’s trying to navigate all of that right now.
But yeah, I like where Stephen A’s head is at. We need to get Joel on a seek and destroy mission, find that killer instinct that takes him to the next level: