The700Level

Sixers give Joel Embiid max contract, rest of team shows us why they had to

uspresswire-sixers-joel-embiid.jpg
USA Today Images

Sixers give Joel Embiid max contract, rest of team shows us why they had to

My only regret is that the Sixers have but one max contract to give for our JoJo. 

In case you missed it, the Colangelos dropped a spicy Woj Bomb on the NBA world last night in the form of a five-year, $148 million contract extension for one Joel Hans Embiid, ensuring that The Process will stay in Philly for the foreseeable future. I'll save you the math: That's ~$4,774,194 per contest for JoJo over his 31-game NBA career to date. It's also about $50 million more than we have in all other player salary on the books after this season combined. 

And that's fine. Totally. I couldn't say with confidence that Joel Embiid will ever play a mostly-healthy season for the Philadelphia 76ers — hell, I can't even say with complete assuredness that Joel Embiid will ever play a mostly-healthy game for the Philadelphia 76ers again — but that doesn't really affect my opinion of this contract. If anything, it just makes me grateful that the powers that be realized that we still had to ink it ASAP. 

Is there risk to go with the contract? Of course, but the risk is not with the money, it's with Joel. The money doesn't matter: There's no amount of money we could legally give Embiid that wouldn't be worth what he'd be worth to this team if he averaged even 50 games a year over the length of the contract. And yes, even 50 a year might be optimistic for a guy who's played 31 games in three seasons; also ultimately unimportant. The Sixers seem to think Joel will play basketball again at some point in the not-distant future. That's enough for me — back up the Brink'siest of Brink's trucks.  

The Sixers had no choice here. Or, they had a choice, but one of the two options wasn't one many teams would consider: Joel Embiid or irrelevance. Put simply, Embiid is the difference between this team mattering or not for the next half-decade: They need him, and if they lost him, they would almost certainly have zero avenues to properly replace him. Would it have been nice if JoJo had shaved a couple million off his AAV just to do the Colangelim a solid? Sure, but he was under zero obligation to — in case you forgot, they didn't draft Embiid, and the guy who did is long gone now — and you could argue that Joel's already practically earned nine digits in public goodwill with his delightful antics off the court the past few seasons alone, keeping the fanbase engaged during the darkest win-loss period in franchise history. He wants $148 mil? 10s and 20s OK? 

Maybe after four years of Hard Process Living you've convinced yourself that the Sixers have enough stuff already that they don't have to be so beholden to Embiid — that between Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, our draft picks in reserve and our other blue-chip young'ns, we could still be one of the league's most fun, most exciting teams even sans Joel. Well, you must've missed last night's preseason game in Boston, then, where our crappy defense and stagnant offense led to us getting creamed by a C's squad missing four of five starters, with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz both showing occasional flashes but failing to get the team into any kind of flow. Neither dude has shown much this preseason to suggest that they'll be able to contribute to winning (or even consistently competitive) basketball right away, and they both have glaring holes in their game that'll take a whole lotta precious time to correct. 

And next to Embiid, that's all cool. Joel makes everything easier for everyone, and with his instantaneous brilliance in place to anchor the roster and cover up teammate flaws, Simmons and Fultz can both grow slowly as needed around him, without either's development becoming the team's dominant story. But if he's not around, they've got to lead pretty much right away, and that's very bad for this season — like, 25 wins if we're lucky bad — and not great long term, where it's hard to imagine these Sixers growing into more than a 40-45-win squad, even by 2023. 

I've beat this drum for so long and so hard that I've had to buy multiple replacement skins, but continue to Neil Peart about it I shall: Embiid is all that really matters, and without him this team is lost. Even if JoJo gets attacked by a sentient lawn mower tomorrow and has his foot irreparably mangled — knock on wood — I would still have no regrets about this contract, because our only path to true success the next half-decade would've involved extending The Process anyway. Without him, this team is basically screwed, and all the cap space in the world isn't likely to change that. (And in any event, there's said to be some worst-case-scenario protections on the deal that will aid our cap if JoJo misses significant injury time — cool, though if we need to spend significant time talking about those particulars the next few years, the depression might not be worth the savings.)

And what's more, I'm good with the contract because I'm fine riding with Joel until the end of the line regardless. Due to all we've already been through together before achieving any kind of real success, the Sixers fanbase has a connection with Embiid unlike any in fan-player history, and it's a relationship that he's always seemed to care about nurturing and earning, even when things were at their personally or professionally direst. If there's even a 20% chance that we'll one day get to root for JoJo at a postseason game at the WFC, that's a chance we need to take, because it would cause a home excitement that the NBA world has never quite seen before. Sports relationships like this are truly once in a lifetime, and not to be trifled with. 

So yeah. Let the rest of the sports world cackle about the sagacity of giving a dude who's never even played half a healthy season (and hasn't proven he's in shape to do this year) enough money to buy a couple private islands — they're not wrong to do so, but they're also definitely not right. They don't understand that there's no risk greater in locking JoJo up at any price tag than anything that leaves the door open for him to be donning another uniform before 2023. They don't understand that without him, the next five years are a wash for Philly fans no matter what else happens. They don't understand that Joel Embiid is The Process, and The Process is Joel Embiid, and that without him Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie basically died for nothing

NFC East Week 14: Dear Football Gods, please don't let Dallas sneak into the playoffs

usat-eli-manning-cowboys.jpg

NFC East Week 14: Dear Football Gods, please don't let Dallas sneak into the playoffs

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (even if we have to look through the tears) and what they have upcoming. Firstly, a big congratulations to the 2017 NFC East Champion Eagles, who won the division in the most Philly-way possible. Thirteen years ago, Chad Lewis broke his foot catching the game-clinching touchdown to send the Iggles to Super Bowl XXXIX, a game he would never be able to dress for. And that was the most quintessential Philly-sports bittersweet moment, until last Sunday, when the Birds clinched a division title on the same day their MVP candidate was lost for the season.



So while we all check the back of the fridge for any leftover Nick Foles smoothie we may still have from 2014 (here’s a video of him throwing seven touchdowns against Oakland), let’s keep in perspective what this season was really about; making sure Washington, Dallas, and New York didn’t win jack. As of Sunday, two out of three have already been eliminated from contention, and while that may be good enough for Meatloaf, there’s still paradise to be found by the NFC East standings.

Here’s what happened, and what’s happening, this week in the NFC East:

New York Giants (2-11)

What Happened: The Giants lost their eleventh game of the season against Dallas on Sunday by a score of 30-10, and at this point calling them a mess would be a compliment. Eli Manning was back at the helm for the GMen, which is sorta like watching old episodes of “The Honeymooners” -- out of date, out of touch, and certainly not funny at all. I, for one, wonder how anyone ever found it any good.

The Giants fans were kind enough to give their embattled quarterback a standing ovation when he entered the game, which was nice, in the same way a Viking funeral is nice. Instead of letting the homecoming hero make a play, of course, the Giants instead handed it off their first play, which running back Orleans Darkwa promptly fumbled. They recovered, but my goodness did that play not perfectly sum up their entire season; equal parts out of touch and completely incompetent.

Anyway, the Giants actually held tight for most of this one, going into halftime tied, only to let Dak and Co. drop 20 on them in the fourth quarter. They even led when Manning threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Rhett Ellison, who to me is sorta like what George Soros is to an Alabama voter; I couldn’t recognize him on the street, but I’ve decided I hate his guts.

Quick Eli note worth remembering; the younger Manning led the league in interceptions in 2007, the first time he won a Super Bowl. A few years later, he threw 27 picks in a single season. In short, Manning has had some truly terrible statistical seasons, and yet delivered a pair of Super Bowls. I guess that’s why New Yorkers suddenly feel he’s deserving of the red-carpet-Derek-Jeter-farewell-tour treatment. However from my point of view, if this human muscle spasm can end his career with two Super Bowl rings, Foles surely can sneak by with one. 

Positive Spin: Nice moment for Eli, who got to come home and get appreciated by the fans who talked smack after every single one of his career 224 interceptions. Like how Nixon was allowed to retire in California. During his 210-game start streak, Eli Manning lost just nine less games then he won (a 52% winning percentage), and it’s poetic that the Giants faithful got to watch him lose one more time before he rides off to Jacksonville this offseason.

In unrelated news, if you take out Nick Foles rookie season, he has a 77% winning percentage as a starter, 25-points higher than the highly-regarded Eli. #Math.

Negative Spin: In a handful of months, the Giants will have a new head coach and a new general manager who will need to decide whether to make Davis Webb the new face of the franchise. Instead of getting some valuable game tape on the guy against an actual, competent (and I only say that ‘cause Sean Lee played) defense, the future leaders of an organization that once kept a domestic-abusing kicker around just got more film from the least talented quarterback to ever be mentioned in Hall of Fame conversation.

Eli’s moment on Sunday may have been nice for fans, but it provides little-to-no value for this team going forward… unless the plan is to convince the 37-year-old to stick around for one more season, which seems about as advantageous as keeping that expired milk in your fridge, hoping it can somehow turn the corner.

What’s Next: The Giants play host to the NFC East Champs on Sunday, and one can only presume it won’t come down to a 61-yard field goal from Si Senior Jake Elliott this time around. For the Giants, winning would only hurt their draft position, while a victory for the Birds would clinch a first-round bye. So perhaps we can all come to some sort of mutually-beneficial agreement? :::wink-wink:::

Seriously though, if the Giants do beat the Birds come Sunday, it’ll officially make their season the stupidest.

 

Washington (5-8)

What Happened: Washington was officially eliminated from the playoffs, and that’s a win for everybody, since every time Dan Snyder gets upset, somewhere an old lady wins a court case. The wheels appear to be coming off for Jay Gruden’s squad, as they got smacked in Los Angeles by the Chargers 30-13. Philip Rivers crew, whom the Eagles beat handedly earlier this year, flew into halftime with a 23-6 lead that Washington never seriously threatened.

Kirk Cousins, who was drafted 14-spots after Nick Foles and has a losing record as a starter, threw for just 151 yards, which obviously wasn’t enough to prevent Washington from losing their sixth out of their last eight games. Quite frankly, having that little productivity through the air when your team was playing from behind the majority of the game can generously be described as atrocious.

And like my stomach after too many barbacoa burritos, the Washington locker room is starting to get a little grumbly. Guys like D.J. Swearinger and Josh Norman both had eyebrow-raising comments this week, and even former player Brian Mitchell declared he’s quitting on this team, which seems odd, since they actually quit on him over seventeen years ago. In Mitchell’s defense, he was cut at a time before SMS, so it’s not his fault he didn’t get the memo.

Adding injury to insult, Washington put three more dudes on IR this week, including tight end Jordan Reed, who ends his season with less on the stat sheet than Trey Burton. 

All-in-all, it spells trouble for Jay Gruden and his staff, who saw their faint playoff hopes get crushed via two blow-out losses in a ten-day span, one of which came against their biggest division rival. For the past few weeks I’ve been suggesting that Washington, while struggling, ahd been a victim of too-many-injuries and would surely play hard enough to save Gruden’s job. Alas, when players are telling reports the team didn’t practice hard enough (as Swearinger did), or that they’re unhappy in their roles (as Norman did), it’s typically a recipe for a coaching-change come January. After all, it doesn’t matter how good the appetizer and main course might have been, if the dessert is atrocious, you’re gonna leave the restaurant with a bad taste in your mouth. 

And Dan Snyder isn’t the kind of guy who goes back to a restaurant that left him with a bad taste in his mouth. 

Positive Spin: I dunno, draft position? Anyone in D.C. hoping to move on after four years of this Administration will be happy to hear the end may be near for Gruden.

The only really positive thing I can find when looking at the Washington Football team is that they won three Super Bowls with three separate quarterbacks: Mark Rypien, Doug Williams, and Joe Theisman. All of them have a career passer rating lower than Nick Foles, and that’s something positive I can wrap my head around.

Negative Spin: So what happens here? A new head coach, maybe a new GM, and a whole new gameplan? Is Washington about to start from scratch, two years after winning this division and less-than-a-year from barely missing the playoffs? How did all that positive energy disappear so quickly, as it always seems to with Snyder at the helm. The man is like a vacuum, if vacuum’s had a setting where they only suck up the good things and leave out all the garbage and filth.

This Washington squad is trending downwards for the second consecutive year. Gruden may not be the captain capable of turning this ship around, but most fans likely have more faith in him doing so than in Snyder and team president Bruce Allen (who has now been with the team since 2009) finding someone who can.

What’s Next: Washington finishes up the season with games against the Cardinals, Broncos, and Giants. None of those teams can impact the Eagles spot in the playoffs, so just like B-Mitch when he ditched the Birds for the GMen, this team is not completely irrelevant. Sayonara, Snyder!

 

Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

What Happened: In what could generously be described as Eli Manning Bobblehead Day (because Eli Manning returned, and doesn’t he always look like his head would bobble if you tapped it?), Dak Prescott stole the show with three touchdown passes as the Dallas Cowboys won again, 30-10. Prescott has now thrown for 44 career touchdown passes, or 12 less than Nick Foles, for anyone keeping score at home. Yet be prepared for more national pundits to treat Prescott the second coming, even though his stats at this point in his career are eerily similar to where Foles’ were at the same time.

Despite what you may hear, the Cowboys were actually in danger of losing this one, and looked pretty mediocre throughout the day. Unfortunately for all of us who root for good in this world, Dallas exploded for three touchdowns in about a five-minute span, so now we have to hear about what GREAT FINISHERS Jason Garrett’s squad is. Color me unimpressed; when the Birds needed a last-second play to beat the Giants, they still had Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants best ball-catcher this week was tight end Evan Engram.

In the end, though, you can only play the teams that are on your schedule, and the Cowboys got a much-needed, feel-good victory that keeps them in FOX Sports’ “IN THE HUNT” playoff graphic for at least another week.

Oh, and ICYMI, Roger Goodell got his contract extension after all, which stands as proof that Jerry Jones may not be the Shadow Commissioner he’s made himself out to be. I for one enjoy any Cowboys loss, be in on or off the gridiron. Watching Goodell and Jones do battle this season has been like watching the Borg fight Species 8572, and if you get that reference, then you deserve a medal.

Positive Spin: For the second game in a row, Prescott looked impressive, which is a big step forward from the guy who looked Hoying-esque without his star running back. It’s worth noting his improvement has correlated with the return of left tackle Tyron Smith, but I’m admittedly being nit-picky here. The Cowboys have won more games than they’ve lost so far in 2017, and have done just enough to keep their postseason chances alive (even if they may be in ICU). With Zeke set to come back in two weeks, and the old adage about anything-can-happen-in-the-playoffs still holding true, Dallas isn’t in the worst spot.

No, the worst spot is still reserved for the Giants.

Negative Spin: Despite all the happy shine Cowboys fans could potentially try to spin, the playoffs are still a LONG shot. They currently sit a game behind the Atlanta Falcons for the final Wild Card spot, but would need to leapfrog them, the Seahawks, the Lions, and the Packers (who just got Aaron Rodgers back). Anyone who remembers the 2008 Eagles knows that crazier playoff scenarios have played out, however keeping in mind that ‘dem Boys have won just one game vs. a team over .500 (a victory over the reeling Chiefs in Week 9), it seems safe to bet against them. Or at the very least, pray to the football gods against them.

To reiterate: their past two victories have come against Washington and the Giants. One team has already fired their coach, and the other may soon follow suit. It’s not like beating, say, the Los Angeles Rams at home with a back-up quarterback and the division title up for grabs. A win is a win to be sure, but when it comes to measuring awesomeness, not all wins are created equal. Like how Ruth’s Chris and McDonalds both, by definition, serve pieces of cow; the comparisons pretty much die out after that.

All in all, while the Cowboys may be playing better of late (and you can still argue they aren’t), the season is still likely to end at the conclusion of Week 17.

What’s Next: A trip to Oakland against the awful Raiders (who are still fighting for a division spot), followed by a home game against the Seattle Seahawks (who are currently ahead of them in the standings). Win both of those games, and maybe, just maybe, the Cowboys will have a chance to get knocked out by the NFC East Champs in Philly on New Years Eve.

Process Like You: Joel Embiid got the Sixers their biggest win of the season last night

Process Like You: Joel Embiid got the Sixers their biggest win of the season last night

I'll admit it: I thought they were done. Down seven and dragging in the fourth quarter, it just didn't seem like the Sixers had the energy or the shooting to get the buckets needed to get back in it against the Minnesota Timberwolves. And then once Philly battled back and Jimmy Butler hit that three to put the Wolves up two in the final minute -- of course he did, the NBA is still shooting 100% on That Shot against the Sixers -- you just kinda had to laugh about the Sixers losing another game in such a fashion. 

But then, Joel Embiid got deep post position, drew a Minnesota desperation foul, and calmly sank two free throws to tie it. Butler missed an off-balance jumper in the waning seconds of regulation, and for the first time this season, the Sixers headed to overitme. It was uncharted territory for these Sixers, and it seemed like they might be able to steal one. And they actually did, emerging with a 118-112 win

Before we get into Embiid's performance, and all the reasons this was such a clutch W for the Sixers, first a quick word about Robert Covington: Damn, this team needs Robert Covington. As much shooting as it seems like this team has when everything is clicking, when even one key perimeter player is missing, it's amazing how quickly things fall apart -- within minutes, we're kicking out to Trevor Booker and Richaun Holmes behind the arc and they're going "wait, what am I supposed to do with this?" (Actually, Richaun is more than happy to fire away from deep, but that's its own set of problems.) Not to mention how little wing defense we have without RoCo -- hardly surprising that Butler went for a season-high 38 against J.J. Redick and Dario Saric. We are in much trouble if Cov misses any more time for Philly, so get well soon, Rock. 

And also, another quick word on Ben Simmons: We're really starting to see how his limitations end up affecting the whole team. Not to harp too much on our star rookie's fairly rare off night -- just seven points, also with that many turnovers -- but when there's not a surfeit of shooting around him, the floor shrinks on Simmons pretty dramatically, and if the team's interior passing and quick-cutting isn't executed at 100% around him, it's pretty tough for them to find easy buckets. The team struggled to generate offense for most of the night, and it's something that's gonna happen occasionally with Simmons running the show, especially without Covington around to handicap his lack of range a little. 

All right, now Joel: Holy s--t, what a player. Last night wasn't his best game as a Sixer, certainly -- no one would confuse his final stat line for his now perma-bronzed 46-15-7-7 line against L.A. last month -- but it really might have been his most impressive performance, pro particularly down the stretch. 

Hitting those two free throws alone would have been tremendous enough: A center on the line, with the game on the line, on the road, with your team in the midst of a four-game skid? Calmly stepping up and sinking those without getting hyped on too much passion is no small ask, certainly, but JoJo did it with sweat to spare, even ending the game 11-12 from the stripe in total. Over the last five games, Joel is getting to the line 12 times a contest and converting a stunning 87% of those opportunities; exactly what he needs to do to become an absolutely dominant big man in this league. 

But that's far from all The Process did late in this one. He also found his struggling co-star Ben Simmons with perfectly timed entry feeds as the Fresh Prince snuck around his defender and the basket for a couple easy deuces. He also torched a toasted Karl-Anthony Towns for a couple big buckets in and around the post, after KAT had proven Embiid's match down low for much of the game's second half. And he hit one absolutely gigantic three to put Philly up seven and essentially seal the game in OT, confidently stepping into it from the top of the arc after passing up open triples all night. He ended the evening with 28 (on 8-16 shooting), 12 and a career-high eight assists, with only two (!!) turnovers on the evening. 

The biggest number from Embiid's performance, though: 5. That's how many fouls he ended with -- and also how many fouls he had entering the stretch run of the fourth quarter. In games past, that would either mean JoJo would invariably pick up No. 6 within minutes playing his typically aggressive help defense, or that he'd essentially foul himself out by playing matador defense on the perimeter and backing away from contact at the cup. Credit Embiid, his teammates and Brett Brown for figuring out a way to continue to leverage Jo's defensive strengths (particularly on one expertly played perimeter sequence against Butler) while also handing off some of his post gruntwork to teammates Richaun Holmes and Dario Saric. That meant our franchise player could preserve himself a little while staying in the contest, not costing the squad easy hoops, and still putting the rest of the squad behind the wall of Embiid. 

The late-game performance was particularly meaningful for the Sixers in this one, because maaaaan did we need a W. Four losses in a row, dropping the Ballers all the way back down to .500, with injuries starting to become a major factor: Another loss or two and all the positive momentum from the season's first quarter would've threatened to start slip-sliding away. Now we enter a stretch of three imminently winnable contests -- against OKC, at Chicago, and back home for our Sacramento revenge game -- with a one-game cushion, reason to feel optimistic again, and our recent losing streak only a memory. Stolen Ws llke last night's in Minny are the kind that superstars should occasionally afford you just by virtue of their greatness, and we can only hope it's just the first of countless more to come from our eminently trustworthy Process.