Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid says there “should not even be a question” about how the team’s offense should work when the league restarts: It should go through him.
“I know what I’m capable of, and I know what my teammates think of me,” Embiid said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “I know I’m capable of carrying the team, so it’s all about me being assertive. If I feel like I’m not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do.
“But at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about getting the ball, just because of who I am. I believe I can carry the team, and I believe being able to do that, I just got to take matters into my own hands. And obviously, I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I believe my teammates are going to help.”
Among the many ups and downs the Sixers went through yet again this season before it shut down, questions about the team’s offense were at the heart of most of them. There was the ongoing chatter about Ben Simmons’ reticence to shoot 3-pointers. There was the awkward fit between Embiid and Al Horford, the team’s marquee free-agent signing. And there was Embiid himself saying he wasn’t playing with fire at times.
At different points in Embiid’s 20-minute media session Tuesday, all of those topics came to the fore. And, in typical fashion, Embiid addressed them all colorfully.
As for his fit with Simmons, Embiid said that the two of them have “got to be ourselves.”
“We’re going to need him,” Embiid said. “It’s a team game. I’m going to do my best to keep helping him and create some space for him, and we all got to do the same thing just to help each other. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning a championship, and I feel like he has the right mindset, that’s what he wants to do. I know one thing about him, he wants to win, and he’s going to do what it takes to win. So whatever we’re going to need him to do, that’s what he has to do.”
Meanwhile, Embiid’s fit with Horford — his nemesis the past couple of seasons while starring for the Boston Celtics — has been a constant topic of discussion in Philadelphia. On a team already lacking in spacing, Horford and Embiid have had difficulty successfully coexisting on the court. Horford has also found himself with the ball far less than he’s used to, making his transition even tougher.
Embiid downplayed the concerns about their fit, though, saying that things will be fine between them once Philadelphia officially gets back on the court in Orlando — though he again pointed out the team’s chronic lack of shooting around him as part of the reason the Sixers have struggled.
“I don’t see any problems,” he said. “You need to figure out if something is going on, and I don’t believe it is a problem. I think it’s just a matter of everybody buying in and being able to play their role. I mean, the pairing with Al I feel like has been fine.
“At times it could be better, but then again, everybody on the court has a job, and with that type of pairing you have to have shooters around. You need to have people or guys being, like, wanting to take that shot. Especially when you got two inside presence like me and Al. He can post up, I can post up, and then around you’ve got to be able to have guys that are willing to shoot and that are going to shoot the ball. I think that’s what needs to happen but I don’t think that’s a problem.”
When the subject of trying to restart the season in the first place was broached, Embiid also answered in his typically frank manner.
“I hated the idea,” he said. “I feel like, with everything going on, it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world. Obviously, people look at it a different way, there might be some other reasons behind everything going on. But to me, that part never mattered to me, all I want to be is, you know, stay healthy, and stay safe, keep the people around me safe.
“I want to make sure I’m able to live for a long time and not have any sort of I don’t know, consequences in the future. Some type of, I don’t know, from this, if I ever were to be in a situation of getting the virus. But like I said it’s unfortunate. I’m not a big fan of the idea, but then again, I’m going to do my job, I’m not going to let the city down, I’m going to go represent my city, that’s what I’ve always done, my family, and my teammates. So you just gotta, the mindset doesn’t change.”
Embiid said repeatedly that he isn’t worried about putting himself in a bad position during the restart because “all I do is play video games and stay in my room on the road.”
He did say, however, that he has concerns about what other players inside the bubble will do and, like Damian Lillard recently, expressed doubts others will be willing to follow the rules the NBA has laid out for those taking part.
“There’s some guys like to go out, there’s some guys like to do stuff, there’s some guys that like adventure, so that’s the way I’m thinking,” Embiid said. “I know myself, I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk.
“But the question is ‘Is everybody else going to do the same?’ And I surely, just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”