The Sixers have been the biggest disappointment of the season so far, relative to projections and expectations set at the beginning of the season. A powerhouse that was supposed to battle Milwaukee for the no.1 seed has an uphill battle to get any home-court advantage in the playoffs. Even with the "can Simmons and Embiid coexist" question in mind, the Sixers have looked bleek.
So it was no surprise when Shaq and Charles ripped into the Sixers and even less shock when they singled out Joel Embiid. They only do it to players they believe could be great, and there is a reason why everyone keeps believing in Embiid. It's not just the talent and fantastic skillset for his size. Embiid is one of the rare young NBA stars who embrace tough love.
After sinking a three-pointer with less than a minute left against the Bulls at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, Embiid made a shushing gesture as he ran back to the defensive end of the court. Wining against the Bulls isn't something to write home about, so why would you shush the crowd?
So, Embiid heard the criticism and is working his way through it. That's good news for Philly fans. The only problem is, we've seen this movie before. While it's great Joel takes public criticism from greats like Shaq and Chuck on the chin, it often shows for a week or two. If the 76ers want a realistic chance at the Finals, they need to go on an absolute tear after the All-Star break and walk into the Playoffs working on all cylinders.
“Spacing is an issue. Sometimes we play fast, sometimes we play slow, but at the end of the day, when you think about it and as we try to get ready for the playoffs also, the game slows down. It becomes a half-court game and that's where we struggle the most so hopefully we do a better job in the next three games before All-Star.”
Joel Embiid, via BR
Embiid knows he has to improve, but it's on the coaching staff to develop a style of play and identity that players commit to. Shaq and Barkley's criticism can only get you so far.
P.S. "Good asshole" is a perfect description of Embiid on the court