The Sixers are currently on a four-game losing streak and it couldn’t come at a worse time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things will change anytime soon. On February 5th, Embiid was asked if he felt the sixers have an offensive identity. Embiid responded, “No we don’t. Spacing is an issue.” At first, I felt as if he had a point. With Horford playing the four, it would be logical to agree, but after watching the Sixers get outplayed by the Bucks, I couldn’t disagree more
Embiid is one of the rare centers that can dominate in the post for this generation of NBA players. There aren’t many like him, he’s the face of a dying breed but he’s dominant when he’s there and locked in. Embiid has even expanded his game to beyond the arc and is doing well from there but what’s missing has nothing to do with his talent. It’s all about what’s underneath the Phila 21 across his chest.
Embiid was the man last season, especially with Jimmy Butler around. Butler was able to create the “space” that Embiid desires and got acquainted with but Simmons is a different animal. Butler can shoot from anywhere on the court, Simmons is a hard-nosed point guard whose become too complacent with his game to ever shoot the ball. But surely there’s a way that these two can bounce off each other in a similar way?
The team is loaded with all-star talent. Names like Harris, Richardson, and even Horford (shh) surround the Sixers superstars but it’s just not meshing. Simmons is usually camped out below the basket after he starts the half-court offense, while Horford camps out beyond the arc. So where does that leave Embiid?
The Cameroonian just looks lost out there but it’s not completely his fault. Embiid’s game used to strive off of energy and his ability to get inside his opponent’s heads. Brand and Brown made it a focal point to keep Embiid from having any twitter feuds. It may have been one of many talks that have compressed his identity.
Add that to the Simmons factor and things get complicated. As I stated before, Simmons isn’t Butler. His personality isn’t as contagious and open as Jimmy was. Ben’s “timid” nature isn’t very common in superstars athletes, its almost comparable to Kawhi but it seems he doesn’t have a problem with connecting with his teammates. Instead, it seems as if Simmons has disconnected himself from the team and all that’s going on by focusing on things outside of basketball and treating the sport for what he sees it as, a job.
The two superstars are both reaching a point in their careers where they can either blow up or blow over. Shaq said it best on TNT’s pregame show when he mentioned that he spoke to both stars together. The former Laker great stated that “ You don’t have to be best friends to be great on the floor.” Which makes sense when you think about the relationship between Kobe and Shaq. They were always criticized for their dysfunctional relationship but somehow Phil Jackson made the duo work to bring in multiple championships.
Maybe the spacing issue Embiid is really referring to is the fame that both players are starting to get. You can’t see one without the other but is that really bad? Both are young, talented, and are peaking in their careers but let’s be honest, you can tell that it’s becoming difficult for them to share the spotlight when the onlu headlines they see are trying to eliminate one from the picture.
Just look at the streak of games Embiid missed due to the gruesome finger injury and the way in which Simmons took over the offense. Fast-forward to last night and the dynamic could not be any more different.
They may not have to be the best of friends for this to work but both players are signed to “great” player contracts in a city that will never expect less than 100%, just ask Allen Iverson. If they can’t get it fixed soon, bigger changes may be coming to a Sixers team that seemed destined for playoff success this year.
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