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March 27, 2023 | 9:30 am EDT Update
Joel Embiid: 'I'll be the bad guy, I like being the a--hole anyway'
Joel Embiid: “People always thought that I was crazy when I said this — I really believe that I’m not well-liked. And it’s cool with me, that’s fine. I’ll be the bad guy. I like being the a–hole anyway. I like being the underdog. So that’s fine with me. My thing is, when I leave the game of basketball, I want to make sure that people looked at me as … it’s hard to be the greatest ever because you’ve got to win a bunch of championships and not everyone is lucky to do it because only one team can win and you have to have the right pieces around you … but when I leave the game, I want to make sure that they say: No one was stopping him offensively and defensively, and he was a monster. That’s why I play the game — for the respect. I put in too much work. If you look at the beginning of my career and where I have been taking my game, offensively I’ve become like a guard.”
Do you feel your MVP pursuit — and potential victory — is more organic this season? Joel Embiid: It is coming naturally. Even against the Bulls (on March 22), I could have easily stat-padded if I wanted to, but I don’t care. (Embiid did not play in the second half of the 76ers’ 116-91 win over the Bulls on Wednesday due to what the team termed “calf tightness.” The 76ers led for large margins throughout, and it was believed the score difference played a major role in Embiid not returning to the game. Embiid finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and one block in 16 first-half minutes.) Embiid: I could have easily come back in and got a triple-double and make sure that I keep going after the scoring title. Or keep the 30-point streaks going or whatever. But I don’t care. I think mentally I’ve gotten to a different level where it’s all about winning. What matters — it’s just about winning, winning, winning. I’ve been focused on that. We’ve been doing that. Whatever happens, happens. If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.
“So for me, I also took that approach where I was like, the last few years, I could have probably had one MVP or whatever, and it didn’t happen. I just said I’m not going to focus on that. I’ve gotten to the point where people are used to me and people are putting the type of expectations on me. The only way I’m going to get that respect is by winning a championship. Whatever gets me to the playoffs healthy, that’s what I’ve got to do. Starting off the season not slowly, but one step at a time, building up to this point where I’m playing up to this point and just dominating offensively and defensively, it’s worked out well for me. “When you worry about the right things, which is winning basketball and doing whatever it takes — whatever happens, happens.”
Your chemistry with James is apparent — the pick-and-roll is the most dynamic in the NBA. How have you guys developed that level together? Joel Embiid: I don’t think we’ve ever had to have a conversation. I think from the beginning, it was natural. I’d like to believe that I’m a f—ing monster. I got a high basketball IQ, and he does too. So when you have two guys that have high basketball IQs, it’s easier to figure things out. From the beginning when James came here, one thing about me is I’ve gone away from posting up a lot. I allow James to have the ball in his hands a lot because I believe he’s the best playmaker in the league, and he’s going to make my job easier. He’s going to make my teammates’ jobs easy. From the beginning, James has given up a lot. I’ve given up a lot. And it’s worked out great for both of us and the whole team too. We understood we have two guys where you take advantage of what they’re good at. When we put it together, we have a flow.
Justin Kubatko: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last night: ✅ 31 PTS ✅ 9-17 FG ✅ 13-15 FT It’s the 30th time he’s scored at least 30 points on 50% shooting from the field this season, tying Kevin Durant for the most such games in a single season in franchise history. More: open.substack.com/pub/statitudes…
Justin Kubatko: Jaylen Brown last night: ✅ 41 PTS ✅ 13 REB ✅ 18-29 FG Brown now has eight career 40-point games, tying Tom Heinsohn for the fifth-most such games in @celtics history. It’s his third 40p/10r game, tying Sam Jones for fifth in franchise history. More: open.substack.com/pub/statitudes…
Justin Kubatko: Tyus Jones last night: ✅ 13 PTS ✅ 5 AST ✅ 0 TOV ✅ 0 PF It’s the 19th time he’s tallied at least 10p/5a without committing a turnover or personal foul, tying Tony Parker for the most such games since the NBA began tracking turnovers in 1977-78. More: open.substack.com/pub/statitudes…
The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) is pleased to announce it is partnering for the second year in a row with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Andalucia, Spain to host “The Sanctuary”, a performance retreat for players. Through this partnership, the NBPA and a group of its members will visit the region again this summer for a retreat comprised of basketball and cultural activities. The players will stay in Andalucia and hold training sessions at the Training Center Higueron, called “The Embassy”, in Fuengirola, Spain, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. During the retreat, NBPA members will also have the opportunity to engage in activities off of the basketball court, allowing them to explore Andalucia and learn more about the rich culture and history of the region.