The NBA season is officially underway, and the Sixers opened their 82 games with a depressing 0-3 start against the Celtics, Bucks, and somehow, the Spurs. I’m not going to go into depth about all three games in this piece. I’m going to focus on the man in the middle, the name on the billboards, the Sixers’ franchise player: Joel Embiid.
In that opening matchup against the Celtics, Joel had 26 points and 15 rebounds, but those numbers don’t tell anywhere near the whole story. Another number to notice is the six turnovers and the -13 plus/minus, both of which were the worst on the team. Embiid seemed completely out of his comfort zone, and some credit needs to go to the Celtics’ phenomenal game plan to defend him. The rest of it needs to rest on the shoulders of Embiid.
From the opening tip, Joel seemed out of sorts. He seemed sluggish, defeated, and missing that fire that we, as Philly sports fans, have come to love. His shoulders were slumped, his hands were on his knees late in the game, and the chemistry with his teammates just seemed non-existent. The body language was really rough, and the higher the Celtics’ lead became, the worst it got. There was no attempt to rally, no moment where Joel seemed to say, “I got this,” and carried the team on his back. It seemed like the team was attempting to rally Joel and get him to dominate a Celtics team that he could’ve had serious success with (i mean, seriously, how did Joel not completely dominate Noah Vonleh).
In the following matchups it was more of the same. Joel put up big numbers, but he still seems out of sorts in a bizarre fashion. It’s as if the lack of respect he’s received frmo two 2nd-place-finishes for MVP has finally taken it’s toll. He’s not rallying this team to wins, and it’s cost them their first three games. That failure to rally and bring this team back from the brink is just another example of Joel not being what this team needed him to be, a leader.
What makes a good NBA leader?
For some reference, let’s look at one of the best leaders in the NBA, Stephen Curry. Let’s be real for a second, Curry is one of the greatest teammates ever to play the game, and Joel is no Curry. But Steph does a lot of things that Joel can learn to do and that he should learn to do, to help this team go far. That’s run through a few of those.
- His ability to switch up the game plan when he doesn’t have it.
Everyone has an off night. The best of the best are able to have those off nights, realize what’s happening, and shift their focus to other parts of their game. In Steph’s case, that is his movement off-ball and his playmaking. For Joel, if he can’t get good looks in the post and nothing is going his way, he needs to learn to focus more on the defensive end and rebounding.
- His attitude and constant optimism
There are nights when Steph isn’t himslef, like I mentioned above, but one of the reasons he’s grest is that he never fully lets that get him down. He’s constantly joyful, and pushing his team forward and they’re coming with him. Joel seems to have taken a backseat in this sense. He hasn’t shown any joy or passion in any of these three losses. Hius defence is lackluster and missing effort, his offense is centered around drawing fouls, not being dominant, and it seems that he’s being pulled along by his teamates. Not the other way around.
Joel Embiid has all of the peices he needs to take this league by the throat and dominant this season in a Shaq-like fashion. But to do that he needs to get his act together, step up and lead this team like they need him to.