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July 18, 2023

What they're saying: Did Joel Embiid put the Sixers on the clock?

If Embiid's "Philly or anywhere else" comment did anything, it put pressure on the Sixers to get it together.

Joel Embiid sat down for an interview at the Uninterrupted Film Festival last week and once again stated his desire to win a championship, though "I don't know where that's going to be, whether it's in Philly or anywhere else," he said. 

And, unsurprisingly, it was the "anywhere else" that people got hung up on. 

A candid response, posturing to send a message to the Sixers' brass, a genuine eye on the exit, or maybe a mix of all three? Our own Kyle Neubeck broke down the whole interview and the possible fallout it could bring HERE

But in the present – and admittedly, during a relatively dead period in the NBA calendar – Embiid's viral quote sent a shockwave through a Sixers fan base still heavily disillusioned from another playoff series loss to Boston and a good chunk of the basketball world that's desperate for even the slightest hint of a trade rumor. 

So intended or not, trolling or not, the reigning MVP's words put fans and media on notice, and here's some of what they're saying about it in the immediate aftermath...

On the clock

Chris Herring | Sports Illustrated

If there's one universal consensus after that clip from Embiid's interview went viral, it's that the clock is ticking for Daryl Morey and the Sixers.

They fell short in the playoffs again, Embiid is only getting older, the current roster looks like it'll be taking a step back this coming season, and every other combination they've tried up to this point just hasn't worked. 

They have to figure something out, because the longer they flail and don't, the bigger their problems are only going to get.

Wrote SI's Chris Herring:

But if there is something more to his comment, it shouldn’t be a massive surprise. Top-level athletes often want validation at the highest level, and a championship accomplishes that more than anything. That doesn’t mean this is comfortable for Philadelphia or the team’s front office, though. The very thought of Embiid mentioning “or anywhere else” puts the Sixers squarely on the clock in terms of accomplishing more. The club has been bounced from the playoffs in the conference semifinals five times in the past six seasons and has failed to advance past that round since 2001, during the Allen Iverson era. Sure, bad luck has entered the equation, via the wild Kawhi Leonard bounce in Toronto back in ’19. But the organization has pieced together good-enough rosters—and most importantly, Embiid, the reigning MVP, has been healthy enough these past few years—to get the Sixers further than this at some point during that span.
But even if Embiid has a tendency to troll, his comment about wanting to win, no matter what it takes, should be taken as a warning sign for a team that’s finished nearly every season as of late in the exact same place: on the outside looking in at the conference finals and NBA Finals. Between Embiid staying healthy and the timeline of whichever point guard he’s playing beside next year, the Sixers’ clock is not only ticking, but getting a little bit louder with each passing season. [SI]

MORE: Embiid says he wants to win title, 'Whether it's in Philly or anywhere else'

No need to panic?

Sam Amick | The Athletic ($)

But maybe that interview wasn't necessarily a reason to panic, or at least not yet.

Embiid wants to win, yeah, every player does, wrote The Athletic's Sam Amick

But nothing Amick has heard indicates that Embiid wants out from the Sixers anytime soon, quite the opposite even:

If you strip down the actual message, there’s really not much to dissect here. Embiid, like so many athletes who have come before, expressed an interest in being a champion and indicated that it was a bigger priority than playing for the same NBA team for the entirety of his career. That’s hardly revelatory, especially in today’s Ringz culture era. And let’s not forget, to cite another similar example, that it was during these same dog days of summer a year ago when Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments about possibly playing in Chicago were making the rounds.

As for the question of whether Embiid might be trying to leave Philly anytime soon, a high-ranking Sixers source told The Athletic that Embiid or his representatives have not shared any such message with the team. In fact, the organization’s belief remains that Embiid would love to go the way of Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant and stay with one team for his entire career. The source was granted anonymity because these sorts of matters aren’t typically discussed publicly. [The Athletic, $]

But here's the thing...

History is not on their side

NBA Today | ESPN

LeBron James left the Cavs (twice), Kevin Durant left the Thunder, Anthony Davis got his trade out of New Orleans, Damian Lillard is finally looking for a way out of Portland, and the list only goes on. 

It's an extreme rarity anymore for a star player to stay in one place in the modern NBA, so when former player and current analyst Richard Jefferson heard that Embiid wants to win "in Philly or anywhere else," he absolutely believes the latter part of that.

Said Jefferson:

"I 100 percent believe him. Was LeBron more connected to Cleveland or is Philly more connected to Embiid? Because LeBron was like 'Home? No, I'm out. I'm going to Miami. I want to win.' Players want to win. They are judged by that. So when he says it's either going to be here (Philadelphia) or somewhere else, history tells us that great players will change teams. 

"Look at what's going on with [Damian Lillard]. There have been rumblings about lots of people changing situations. LeBron has left, [Kevin Durant has left]. All of these people have left. Very few, it is very, very rare that a player stays, and a lot of times, the players that stay are the guys who win championships early – like a Steph Curry. Those guys that win do it in the younger portions of their career." [ESPN]

But Embiid and the Sixers haven't done that, and they might be running out of time.

MORE: Who is left in free agency to add to Sixers' depth?

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