November 21, 2018
Joel Embiid has never been shy about speaking up for Markelle Fultz. When the rookie guard was in the midst of personal turmoil last winter, Embiid stepped up to the plate and pointed the finger at people around his teammate for not helping him out.
“I don’t know what the origin of the problems are,” Embiid said during an interview with NBA TV last February. “I’m still trying to figure that out. But I don’t feel like a lot of people around him have had his back. He’s only 19 and that can be hard. The people around you that are supposed to support you that aren’t supporting you — it’s hard.”
After a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thanksgiving Eve, I asked Embiid about all the stories that have swirled around Fultz over the past couple days, and appeared to throw shade in the direction of former GM Bryan Colangelo (bold emphasis mine):
PHILLYVOICE: Joel, you've been pretty outspoken in defense of Markelle in the past when stories have come out about him. What have your thoughts been on everything that has gone on the last couple days, and what have your conversations been like with him?
EMBIID: It's a crazy situation. I thought I went through it my first two years, but this is different. Honestly I don't know what's going on, I'm just a player on the 76ers, so I just try to do my job and move on in my life and try to help him.
It's a tough situation, last year I said that I felt like a lot of people didn't have his back, and that was with the previous management. But I feel like everyone has been trying to do their job helping, and I don't even know what's the problem.
I think he's been playing pretty well, coming off the bench, coming in doing his job. I love playing with him, we have something going on, especially in that pick-and-roll. And a lot of people always talk about, he's a bust and all that, it's just stupid, he's been doing a great job. In the limited minutes that he gets, he comes in, does his job, runs the offense, defensively he tries.
He has a lot of potential. I just got to keep doing my job and try to help him.
When Embiid made those comments last winter, the assumption was that they were directed at someone in his personal life, along the lines of Keith Williams, the trusted trainer and father figure who started the process of Fultz's shot change. With Fultz moving on to a new trainer, Drew Hanlen, over the past offseason, it is still in the realm of possibility that someone else is the target of his ire here.
But with the added context tonight, it sure sounds like Embiid is taking aim at the previous GM, who exited the franchise this summer in the midst of Burnergate.
Whether that is or isn't the case will remain a mystery for the time being. At the least, it's a nice little appetizer for Thanksgiving.
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