On Joel Embiid and the Balance Between Maturity, Fun, and Domination

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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:

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:

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12 Responses

  1. Good. Let the national medias high beams on the East shine on Jimmys Heat, Kembas Celts, and the Bucks unbeaten streak. Let this team quietly keep winning close games and be forgotten about or written off. For every ‘whats up with Joel?’ and ‘why wont Ben shoot more?’ theres also important thing happening that nobody is talking about like ‘Thybulle is coming on fast’ and ‘Tobi is who we hoped he would be’. Does Brett need to tell Joel to get his ass in the key in the 4th quarter? Yes. But there still an eternity to go until these games matter. Just keep healthy and grinding out W’s.

    1. Aren’t you the guy that constantly says Wentz supporters have on rose colored glasses?

      Your unrelenting support of this flawed team is even more silly. The team obviously has no shot. Great parts. Good team. Weak of mind. Physically weak.

      An all new set of Stepford fans.

      It’s ok to admit the Process did not yield the results we wanted.

      Get set for an OKC Thunder type of run. Lots of great regular seasons and no parade.

      1. Certainly am in the ‘We should have kept Foles’ camp. Do I root for Carson to fail? No. I even said and continue to say that I hope Carson makes me look stupid.

        I just want a championship. The results of ‘The Process’ has us in in the mix. Where would we be without it? Looking to bring back Iggy or trading for Chris Pauls terrible contract and hoping for an 8 seed? Continually striking out on premier FA’s like the Knicks? Even if they never win the championship, the fact that this team is contending and not a fringe playoff team already proved it worked.

        1. We differ on the definition of success.

          Like you say about the Eagles – you just want a Championship.

          With the Sixers it’s good to just be in the mix. Not for me.

          The Process was supposed to give us Championships. I am not interested in being OKC.

          This team is more entrenched in purgatory now than they were before the Process. Now we are stuck with salaries on players that can’t deliver a Championship.

          Stefordism is rampant in South Philly.

  2. “This is where you get the real story. The stuff we can’t post. Several times per year we will hold subscriber-only events at local establishments where you can hang out with writers and contributors and find out about all the stuff we can’t post. This is the perfect place to, say, show you those angry emails from a leading sports talk radio Afternoon host. Or that T.O. pic. Or just gossip about the Philly sports media landscape. This may be worth the subscription price alone.”

  3. I personally interacted with Lars Ulrich once in New York and he was a total prig. Acted like he was way better and smarter than everyone else. And Justice for All was their high point, see ya.

  4. Joel, fuck the “Maturity”. Be the heel you were born to be. Be the Sidney Crosby of the sixers, the undeniable talent that everyone around the league loves to hate. Chirp EVERYONE. Piss off EVERYONE. Get people fouled out. Get mad and get to the rim. I’d gladly trade a few more 2 game suspensions to have “Angry Joel” back in full force.

  5. Sixers lack a killer such as Curry, Leonard, Kobe, etc. Brett Brown is a bridge coach, too close to Simmons family to put heat on Ben. Embiid is a bully against weaker players but stronger guys will beat his ass

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