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August 15, 2023

Eytan Shander: Sixers should do right by Joel Embiid... and trade him

Eytan Shander says its time for the Sixers to trade Joel Embiid and start fresh.

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Sixers-76ers-Joel-Embiid-James-Harden_051023_USAT Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

The Sixers were solid on defense in their impressive Game 5 win.

Just trade the guy already!

The failure of the 76ers-James Harden marriage has nuclear implications, as it simply may be too late to save Joel Embiid.

Any true fan of Embiid — raises hand — and what this man went through just to have the chance to play professional basketball should be pushing for a trade. It’s time to let this man go on to greener pastures, where he can be rewarded with a championship trophy.

Lord knows Larry O’Brien isn’t coming here. Maybe a cousin or uncle named Larry O’Brien, but that trophy won’t be seen in this city while Embiid plays for the Sixers. That’s not his fault. While he may share some blame in how seasons have ended, Embiid shares little or no blame with the true culprits that have destroyed any championship window for the MVP.

It’s the latest in a line of failures – most beautifully laid out by Derek Bodner on Twitter:

We have seen these up close as fans. It doesn’t matter what side of the Process any of us were on, it doesn’t matter that Dario Šarić came over, that Ben Simmons arrived, nor does the fleecing of Vlade Divac in Sacramento.

All of that is for nothing as James Harden — the latest star forced to be here — walks out the door. The Sixers had everything they needed to build and win in the form of Joel Embiid and somehow along the way, they kept f*****g it up. This is outrageous.

I’m sick and tired of blaming one person, watching that one person move on, and then blaming someone else. That’s also not an indictment on Embiid, it’s a plea. For his own sanity. Get the hell out of here. There isn’t a soul in the league who is able to come to Philadelphia and help, nor is there a star talent that wants to be here.

No team in the NBA can keep shifting around key pieces each offseason then hope to win the following year. By the time anything gels, it’s either too late — as more moves were made — or it’s the wrong type of gel. It's the crap that’s left when you leave the microwave running a little too long. It’s a massive issue that other teams in this town have fixed — the Philadelphia Eagles used to do this before Doug Pederson — yet the Sixers ignore.

I’m exhausted. No more pointing the finger just to blame a ghost the following season. No more trying to just explain what’s gone wrong, or going wrong, or will go wrong. Let’s just apply Occam’s Razor and draw the simplest solution possible. Only then can you as a true fan of Embiid want him to win a championship, and ultimately admitting it can’t be here.

Embiid is a treasure — his game, personality, social presence, and Philly energy. He's not just a “Philly Guy” — whatever you define that nonsense as — but someone who has fully integrated himself into the city. We agree so far, right? He’s not without a fault here or there, a nasty game of turnovers, disappearing at times in the playoffs, missing games (I actually think he should sit more in the regular season on purpose). We’ve heard him call himself out after ugly losses and bounce back with exceptional play. His underdog story of being the best player in the NBA is something we can relate to, so many people in this city can reach out and touch that type of achievement.

Still on the same page?

Let’s take an honest look at what’s more likely to happen during the final stretch of Embiid’s peak. The first scenario is he stays and deals with inconsistency at best, dysfunction at worst. It’s not just going to magically stop because Nick Nurse is here, it’s happening before Nurse can even coach a game! 

Even Embiid can’t provide necessary stability to a volatile situation, as evident by each offseason being consistently volatile. The first option is sticking around and hoping that after “x” number of years, the team finally gets it right, magically right as this doesn’t just happen in the NBA. This is also assuming stability around Embiid on the floor, on the bench, and in the front office — something that has yet to happen in his tenure. This also assumes that his body doesn’t break down from continued wear and tear while trying to make the most out of crazy situations.

The other scenario would put him in a new city and jersey to match. The process of acquiring Embiid would see fanbases and players — cough, cough — alike doing their best recruiting pitch. Behind closed doors it would rival any of the historic free agency-type recruitments. This would be akin to Anthony Davis being hand-picked by LeBron James. In this case most believably Jimmy Butler would be doing the picking. So, the second scenario would be for a guy who busted his rear to get healthy and ultimately win the league MVP to stick around in a crazy situation, versus a clean start with a few prime years remaining in South Beach.

Who in their right mind would say no to that for Embiid? It’s because we love and support him that we want better for him. I do. Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are a step above many organizations in the league, but this is a major shift from volatility to stability. It gives Embiid a chance to win something more than just an amazing individual trophy. A ring solidifies his legacy with some of the greats at the Center position. The fact that the game has opened up more for the 5 is a tribute to the skills and athleticism of the guys who play it today. Embiid represents that more than anyone — outside of Joker.

Others will read this, digest it, and still disagree. They may see something in the Sixers that I simply don’t with Embiid currently here. The fit, the future, whatever else — we just fundamentally disagree. The rest of you already agreed with me, we just needed to see or say it. Some of you have probably tweeted or posted or yelled at games to trade Embiid. Hopefully this adds some context behind why it’s necessary to make this move.

If you made it this far then you should know this is far from giving up on the Sixers. It actually gives Daryl Morey and the team a chance to start fresh — not over. This is not taking this team back to the stone age to tank, it’s allowing Morey to work with some freedom and flexibility he certainly lacks right now. Hard to think that if given the job security, Morey wouldn’t want to trade Embiid to allow a build closer to the former’s vision.

You can apply whatever moral charge to The Process — good or bad. It netted the city and team Joel Embiid, truly a unique individual on many levels to cross paths with our fanbase. We have bond to Embiid similar to others who came here, be it on the hardwood or another field of play and failed to win a championship. That doesn’t ultimately define our love for those who love us back. Bleeding out someone’s Hall of Fame career while going through a revolving door of talent, coach, or GM ain’t what Sam Hinkie intended.

It’s time big fella to get up and go win that championship, “somewhere else.”

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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