The Sixers kicked off their Orlando bubble regular season with a pitiful display of defense on Saturday night. Despite Joel Embiid pouring in 41 points and 21 rebounds, the team allowed TJ Warren of all people to drop a career-high 53 points en route to 127-121 victory (check out the full game recap: HERE).
The Sixers spat
During this extremely frustrating loss, there was a moment that took place late in the first quarter that caught a lot of fans’ attention. Joel Embiid and Shake Milton got into a quite verbal argument on the sideline heading into a timeout, with a handful of expletives being exchanged which resulted in teammates actually having to step in between the two.
Milton was in the spotlight of the news cycle leading into the NBA’s Orlando restart. After seeing him dominate during the final few games in March, Brett Brown made the decision to actually insert the former G-League star into the starting lineup. With this change came Al Horford being tossed to the bench and Ben Simmons agreeing to take on a more “off the ball” role as a power forward.
The hype was large, and in all reality it probably got too big. In just his very first start with the four players around him, Milton laid a goose egg. He only shot the ball once, turned it over three times, and committed five personal fouls. Even for an avid Shake supporter like myself, it was a bad showing, capped off by the previously mentioned sideline argument.
People were quick to jump on the Embiid-Milton confrontation as some big indictment on the “failed Milton experiment” or the “lack of team chemistry” that the team has. Have we all been watching the same team the last few seasons?
Finding the positive
For months, potentially even years, fans and analysts alike have been begging for Embiid and/or Simmons to step up as leaders in the organization. This Sixers team has repeatedly fallen flat on the road this season, and nobody has ever come out and yelled at someone or gotten in a teammate’s face. Regardless of the outcome of the game, this is exactly the type of fight we need to see in this team going forward.
Embiid was locked in on Saturday night, there’s no way you can deny that. Seeing him hold his teammates accountable (yes even the young ones like Shake) is the exact same thing guys like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird would do. Sometimes you have to be the “bad guy” to get the best out of the ones closest to you.
Embiid dropped 41 and 21 during a loss, he has every right to be pissed off. Not just at Shake either, but at Ben, Josh Richardson, Horford, Brett, whoever. If Joel is stepping up and starting to lead with some tough love, we all should be 100% behind him. It will only help this team in the long run.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports