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February 11, 2020

Eytan Shander: Joel Embiid's latest antics are about wanting attention, not forcing a trade

It really is that simple when it comes to the Sixers' center...

Opinion Sixers
Joel-Embiid_021120_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.

Over the last six years, no athlete in this city has gotten a bigger pass or more patience from the fans than Joel Embiid. That is not a bad thing. But it does help to explain the process of pure love for this man breaking down in front of our eyes, one that only got worse on Monday night when Embiid posted the following on Instagram.

The post itself, in which Embiid refers to his "villain" comments following Sunday's win over the Bulls, was not the problem. It was what happened in the comments shortly after...


That, naturally, sent Sixers Twitter into a frenzy. So, Embiid tweeted out the following to try to ease the fanbase's worries. 

Just like when he shushed the home crowd a day earlier, it appears Embiid is again just trolling the Sixers fanbase. But remember the days when Embiid would only troll his opponents and not his fans? 

Something changed, and that’s the biggest – and really only – issue at hand. We know a couple of the W's but not the most important ones: Why is this happening? And how did we get here? 

This has nothing to do with the act of shushing itself, nor does it have much to do with what he told the crowd on Sunday. It’s about a subtle but clear transformation with Embiid and this city, and I have no idea why this happened. Winning should fix everything, but you can’t just say that without defining what exactly you need to win — because being 10-12 games above .500 certainly hasn’t done anything to prevent tension between the team and fans. Hell, we just saw two straight wins, at home, result in friction between fans and players. That is simply unacceptable.

There is a clear disconnect right now in that organization — it starts at the top, but it’s clear this isn’t the same young and fun Sixers team we’ve grown to love. Maybe this is just the true process of kids growing up in front of our eyes. 

Jeff Lurie was quoted a bunch in the new Amazon “All or Nothing” series featuring his Philadelphia Eagles. One message he gave his players was to block out the noise — all the noise coming from fans, the radio, Twitter, and anywhere else it can be generated outside the locker room. The message was simple: focus on everything that is inside the locker room, and the rest will fall into place. A simple message that was executed to a championship level just two seasons prior, and one that helped fuel another playoff run despite chaos and injury. 

This year’s Sixers team, on the other hand, seems to invite the noise, search it out, something that will eventually be their undoing in the playoffs. They can’t focus on the road, they battle fans at home, and instead of the world focusing on Furkhan Korkmaz making it rain, we are waist-deep in Shushgate. Emiid got his wish — not to be traded, but to be in the center of conversations.

Again, this was never about the booing from the fans or the “shut the f*** up” from Embiid, it’s about how we got here.

Go back to that Lurie scene where he’s addressing the Eagles players, then contrast that with the optics of Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Embiid in the box with Sixers ownership (and Meek Mill) at the Super Bowl. If you’re looking for accountability in this organization, you won’t find it. That starts at the top. 

Being Embiid’s travel buddy seems to be the most important goal of ownership, something that has already undermined the coach and multiple general managers. Embiid has become Demarco Murray sitting next to the owner on the plane. That is what manifested on Sunday, following Al Horford’s ill-advised stunt on Friday against Memphis. I have no doubt in my mind if Horford, who stinks out loud this year, didn’t taunt the crowd, then Embiid wouldn’t have gone off on Sunday. It's that simple. 

Effort will always be questioned here in Philadelphia — no player will ever change that about the fans – so go out and win some games on the road. I direct you to the best conversation I found on this, from two sports minds I respect. This wasn't about Embiid having beef with the fans, this was about being immature and, ultimately, wanting the attention back.

Dig a little deeper and examine who Joel Embiid is and was coming into the NBA, and the answer to “Why are we here?” seems a little clearer. 

Embiid, just 25, is still immature. This is his way to remind the world of his value. Remind the team, the fans, and anyone else out there. Ultimately, I’m not worried about it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call it immature. I’m immature and real recognize real. 

This is – and has always been – about attention. The easiest way to thrust your face back into the forefront of the conversation is to remind people of your value. This has been a different year for Embiid – someone truly in tune with social media – being criticized way more than ever in his career. For the first time since they started playing together, Simmons is getting way more of the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fit issues. Even when Embiid was out with a finger injury, the team played well, and sports talk radio asked if they were better off without Joel, which couldn't have sat well with the big man.

For a guy who nicknamed himself “The Process,” Embiid seems to be suddenly running out of the patience he built up with the fans. For the first time in years people were legitimately – although still absurd in my opinion – having conversations about trading him. Now we are here:

This was never about booing, nor about a player who wants out of Philly. It’s about a kid still growing up in front of our eyes, with a ton of talent, who is feeling neglected. We forget at times this is a young man still new to the culture, still adapting to his insane celebrity and popularity. I want Embiid to go back to being an a******, for better or worse. Talk that trash. Just focus it on Karl-Anthony Towns, not Karl and Anthony in the stands.

Pop Culture Gambling Pick of the Week

I love the XFL. I’ve removed all expectations of this being a mirror NFL league, yet the games themselves weren’t terrible. Even the low scoring games on Sunday provided some entertainment value. The new rules seem to fit inside the parameters of football, and the access is unlike any professional sport we’ve seen on TV.

I placed a couple of in-game bets and was shocked at how little the oddsmakers had a grip on the games. Nobody has any idea what they are doing handicapping and betting these games. You may have already missed the window, but there is real monetary value in betting and playing DFS with the XFL. The fantasy element is easy — stack like you would in the NFL. If you stacked Temple’s P.J. Walker with a couple of Houston players, you probably won some money. It’s the only foolproof strategy we have until there’s more data on players. 

As for the betting, this one is crazy. Houston was up 26-17 (43 total points) heading into the fourth quarter, the in-game total was 64.5! There was a similar situation the following day when both totals closed at 51, and after a low-scoring first quarter, the first total only dropped six points. The second game saw a scoreless first quarter and the total dropped just 8 points. Keep an eye on these in-game totals this coming week, wait a quarter and pound the under.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan during the week on @973espn (Mon.-Fri. from 12-2 p.m.), @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.), and @SBNationRadio on the weekends. You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day.

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