Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has reportedly given “assurances” that he’s prepared to ride out the James Harden drama. The reigning MVP caused a stir when he switched up things on social media but don’t read too much into it.
Embiid will anchor the franchise during the 2023-24 season as it looks to reshape its identity under new head coach Nick Nurse. He is expected to be the focal point of the offense once again. No surprises there. However, it’s what could happen next offseason that has people talking.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons has predicted — scratch that, “guaranteed” — that Embiid could be headed to the New York Knicks if the Sixers aren’t hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. While the 7-footer is under contract until 2027, there have been soft whispers of him potentially requesting a trade out of town.
The Big Fella will turn 30 years old in March and logic dictates that the elder statesman would be reluctant to endure another roster shakeup, perhaps the Sixers decide to move on and rebuild around Tyrese Maxey. In the latter scenario, watch out for the Knicks to emerge as an aggressive trade suitor. New York also has their sights set on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell. Simmons said: “They’ll get one of those three guys, I guarantee. Giannis, Embiid, or Mitchell will be on that team a year from now.”
Meanwhile, Embiid might have another monumental decision to make in the coming months regarding the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The native of Cameroon speaks fluent French and has flirted with representing the host country over the years before opting out of international play. This year feels different. Both France and the United States are putting the full-court press on Embiid to suit up. The Sixers star remains undecided, with rumors running rampant that he could just sit out the Olympics and avoid what would be a polarizing decision.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix has been lobbying hard for Embiid to join Team USA. They need him badly. The plugged-in reporter broke down why while shedding some light on the All-Star center’s thought process:
"Embiid is interested in playing internationally, those close to him say. Part of why he has not is health. The center has battled injuries for most of his NBA career, injuries that often require lengthy recovery time in the offseason. And there is the question of who he would play for. Embiid was born in Cameroon but holds citizenship in the U.S. and France. France would love to add Embiid to a towering frontcourt that could include Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert. The U.S. needs Embiid to grapple with them."
Interesting. Team USA is fresh off a disappointing 127-118 overtime loss to Canada in the bronze medal game of the FIBA World Cup tournament which could be a harbinger of heartbreaks to come in the Olympics. Defense and size are arguably the two biggest problem areas for Team USA, something Embiid — a 7-footer who is a perennial NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate ‚— could instantly improve simply by stepping on the court.
Will he make the ultimate sacrifice and support his adopted country?
Will his already broken body have anything left in late July after an 82-game regular season and (hopefully) extended postseason run?
That might depend on how much legacy means to him. It’s not hard to foresee a scenario where LeBron James leads a reloaded American team in Paris, with Joel Embiid dunking on Nikola Jokic and Serbia in the final round to secure the gold medal. Dream it into existence and make it so.