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May 03, 2019

Sixers Twitter rips ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy for Joel Embiid rant

As Philly rolls to 2-1 lead in Raptors series, big man's potential becomes fodder for debate

Sixers NBA

NBA narratives have a way of swinging wildly from day to day during the playoffs, especially when it comes to a team like the Sixers with emerging young stars.

At the start of the playoffs, with Joel Embiid missing time and then ailing early in the Toronto series, Colin Cowherd warned the Sixers to bail on him before it's too late. Skip Bayless referenced unnamed sources claiming Embiid's knee was the "A" word ("Andrew Bynum Knee": arthritic) and that his six treatments a day at 25 years old is a sign of a career in jeopardy.

No Sixers fans in their right minds would deny that Embiid's health is the X-factor for whether or not the current nucleus can legitimately contend for titles over the next five-plus years. Paying top dollar to a brilliant player who can't stay on the court — while other stars command max contracts — is a dangerous game in a league whose bar is set the highest for championships. 

That's a different question than Embiid's personal legacy as an NBA big man. Where he can potentially fit in among the league's greats is undeniably tied to his health, but there's no question he has shown that caliber of talent in all aspects of his game. In an era forcing his physical archetype into greater versatility and finesse, Embiid's two-way ability is already up there with his predecessors. The guy even makes free throws. 

During Embiid's dominant performance against the Raptors on Thursday night, announcer Marc Jackson ventured to say that "it would be a crime," "barring any injury," if Embiid doesn't end up in the discussion as one of the greatest big guys of all time.

Jackson's partner, Jeff Van Gundy, lost his mind over this comment and ignored the caveats Jackson made. His main point, as the debate continued, is that Embiid has been injured for most of his career. Greatness is about longevity and sustained excellence. 

It's not so much that Van Gundy is wrong about enshrining Embiid prematurely. It's that he went ballistic without actually listening to what his partner said. Maybe the point was to get loud and debate in the middle of a blowout, but Sixers fans were annoyed by the outburst, to say the least. 

It's safe to say that the entire premise of Embiid's career is going to be management of his health. If this is him at well below 100 percent and with fewer minutes than you'd like, there are 29 other teams who would take that in a heartbeat. 

Embiid should take Van Gundy's criticism as the advice Van Gundy gave to the Raptors on Thursday night.