Joel Embiid Says One Thing But Chose To Do Another
Whether he likes it or not, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are going to be a referendum on the legitimacy of “The Process” because without a second round victory this team will most likely face a complete overhaul. I caution to use the word “rebuild” but if James Harden really does have an interest in grabbing a big payday and returning to Houston like Woj reported on ESPN things could get dicey. We have not wanted to talk about the second round series storylines on the John Kincade Show and have preferred to enjoy the fun of the Nets series. Last night though, wasn’t exactly my definition of fun.
Joel Embiid after the game said “I’m too valuable to be ejected” when discussing his incident in the first quarter that could have ended his night. As he was being stepped over under the basket by Nick Clayton after falling down, he thought that kicking Clayton in the junk was going to be an acceptable response. Cue the “he disrespected Embiid” retorts from the defenders, but he could easily have been ejected from the game. It would have been a disastrous turn for the 76ers Game 3 chances. Before any Philly fan clutches their pearls and defends him kicking Claxton, remember that we have had fans similarly celebrating a disrespectful playoff step over as a seminal moment for 22 years. The important thing is not to bury the lead. Joel Embiid IS too valuable to be ejected, but he easily could have been for that offense.
What the Nets set out to do, the Nets accomplished. They tried two different game plans in Philadelphia and fell short in both of them. In Game 3 they figured “bully ball” was the way to go. If they could bump and battle the 76ers they might be able to get them off of their game. The only one who seemed to be greatly affected by their strategy was Embiid, the player the 76ers can’t possibly afford to lose. He told us post game that he understood the Nets strategy, but that he wasn’t going to fall for it. Unfortunately, anyone who watched the game knows that he did.
Later in the contest James Harden was ejected on a ridiculous call. I wondered whether the officials realized that by not ejecting Embiid earlier in the game that they would face huge criticism. By ejecting Harden it might have offered them cover by allowing the Nets to secure a victory. If that was the case, it looks like they doubled down on huge mistakes.
Tyrese Maxey kept his focus and wasn’t going to allow the Nets physical play to affect him. He turned a 5 point deficit into a 3 point lead in a matter of three offensive possessions. It was breathtaking! It was a playoff game coming out moment that could have lasting effects moving forward for the emerging star.
The summary point is that Joel needs to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Future opponents are taking notes. If Joel Embiid can’t get his emotions under control the ghosts of playoffs past are likely to revisit the fan base.