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May 12, 2022

Eytan Shander: Ignore the talking heads when it comes to Joel Embiid

Sixers NBA
Joel-Embiid-Sixers-NBA-Playoffs-05082022-UST Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Joel Embiid reacts to a big defensive stop.

It took one half of basketball to douse a straw man with petrol and ignite a brushfire.

How did we let this happen?

Suddenly playing with a sprained right thumb and (aggravated) broken face is either omitted or simply added as a throw-away statement.

“Yea, I get that Joel Embiid has a sprained right thumb and that he’s playing with a broken orbital bone in his face, but he shouldn’t be moping around about not winning the MVP” or something, according to some idiot on TV.

This false narrative that has swept up the nation is so ignorant that it’s dangerous. In an era where social media doesn’t even care about accuracy after being caught for being inaccurate, don’t look to that cesspool or fire-starters with platforms for answers.

Trust the process. The same one you’ve been watching this whole time.

There is just no grounded reasoning that can come to any logical conclusion that Joel Embiid didn’t show up in Game 5 against the Heat because he lost the MVP. That is a different statement than Embiid is upset he didn’t win the award. The two can co-exist and what’s most disappointing is that people who claim to be close to the game are pushing this nonsense.

This hasn’t been the best series for Embiid for a couple of reasons. There are obvious reasons for anyone who has played the game, I’m sure: his injuries and the Heat’s suffocating defense. These are givens, at least they should be in the conversation. But to dismiss these factors is textbook definition of “ignorant” to everything this man has been through. At the very least, there are way too many important factors as to why he looks off that attributing it to the award is absurd.

This is the same player who insisted on playing through all distractions of the Ben Simmons drama. He never sulked or refused to show up to games or tried to miss the most important game of his career. No matter how many teammates including Tobias Harris – were dragged through the rumor mill, Embiid kept this team on pace and eventually to a top-four spot in the East.

There were plenty of moments pre-James Harden trade where we all were yelling for a trade because the Sixers were “wasting” huge games from Embiid. How does that even remotely come close to sulking or being defeated because he didn’t get his way, a trade earlier in the year to replace the Simmons void?

This is the same individual who was never meant to play in the NBA because of injury setback, and when he did play, not for long because of being injury prone. He’s still diving on the floor and in the stands every chance he gets. It’s asinine to think missing out on an award would truly impact his will to win in the most important game of his career.

Still not convinced that it’s just the injuries and one of the best defensive teams over the past five years? Embiid played through much more than Simmons drama and early injury concerns. The death of his brother would be an understandable weight of pressure too heavy to overcome. Instead, it was the opposite. Like everything else, Embiid showed up and answered the call.

Not winning the MVP was a blow – we hit that a couple of weeks ago with Kurt Helin here on PhillyVoice.com – and a justifiable snub. But nothing else in his past would indicate that Joel Embiid isn’t fit to handle drama or disappointment – or even worse.

The people you empower by watching and regurgitating morning TV talking points aren’t following this team, regardless of one of them used to play here. They also follow this sport well enough to know what they said about Embiid is just false. We have seen the leader of the Sixers rise up to meet challenges each and every time he’s faced with one. To even intimate the opposite doesn’t honor his history and what he’s been through.

As the Sixers now head into what could be their final game of the season, the narrative has been written and set in stone. Embiid bounces back and scores 30? Well, he finally got over the MVP. If he still deals with injury, the Heat defense and the fact he’s not all the way back, then it’s just easier to pin it all on the MVP award.

I have no idea why professional analysts and former players would insult the Miami Heat and all they have accomplished this season. It’s baffling to see so many people just overlook the impact of a broken face.

A broken face.

Somehow it was easier for morons on a halftime-show – that features more gimmicks than analysis – to stick with this shtick. Maybe that’s funny for you when one of the guys talks so low on purpose, he has no problem yelling while selling you unhealthy fast-food pizza, but to create a straw man like this without anything to back it is irresponsible at best.

The dangers of following people because they have been put in positions of authority, even though they can’t truly speak on it as an authority, is scary. Charles Barkley can’t tell me what it means to win a championship. He can tell me a lot about the game, but nothing about the extra effort to put you over the top. We can hear it from him, but that’s where I’ll listen to the pizza guy, assuming we can hear him.

No, Embiid is not suffering from a broken heart. He is, however, dealing with multiple injuries and one of the more aggressive and talented defenses in the NBA. That alone should be weighted in this conversation because they are the only facts in evidence. Sure, Embiid can be upset, and probably is about not winning it.

Nothing in this man’s history would indicate he would struggle on the floor as a direct result of not winning an award though.


Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.)

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