Joel Embiid said at his exit interview Monday in Camden, New Jersey, that he hadn’t been on social media.
But, judging by how he responded to a question about the criticism he faced during this season for his diet, conditioning, untimely illnesses and more, it sounded as if he’d seen every unkind word about him.
“I love it,” Embiid said. “I love when you guys or anybody else just talks s---. I haven’t been on social media, but I see it all. I love when people tell me that I can’t do something because I’m going to go back and work hard, and I’m going to get it right. I’m excited. Tough ending to the season, but I feel like everybody did their job. We played hard and we’re going to be back here.”
There is, you sense, a part of Embiid that wants to respond to the parts of the criticism that don’t come close to being fair.
The sentence after saying, “I’m fine with taking the blame,” he added, “Obviously I can’t control being sick at the wrong time. I still try to push through it.”
Embiid said he played through his illnesses and his left knee tendinitis, with the exception of Game 3 in the first round of the playoffs against the Nets, because he kept being reminded of how massive an impact he has for the Sixers. The Sixers had a plus-20.7 net rating in the playoffs when Embiid was on the court and a minus-19.7 net rating when he was off it, per NBA.com/Stats.
A reasonable interpretation of that stat is that the Sixers’ failure to advance beyond the second round falls largely on their lack of a capable backup center who could stop the ship from sinking when Embiid wasn’t playing. Embiid doesn’t see it that way.
Even if I’m not producing offensively, defensively they’re always telling me that the numbers show it. That’s why I played — I couldn’t let them down. It’s fine. I’ll take it all. You can put this loss on me. Don’t just put it on the coach or anybody else. I should play better. I think I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I did in the regular season. I didn’t have the same impact as I’d had offensively — mainly because of the game plan they had, but that’s what it takes. I have to find ways to get through that and get around other teams’ game plans. I didn’t do that. I’m definitely going to be a better player. It’s all on me.
Beyond valuing his body — Brett Brown said Tuesday he believes Embiid will enter training camp “in the best shape that he’s been since he’s been a Philadelphia 76er” — Embiid has ideas in mind for how he’s going to build on a regular season in which he averaged 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and started his second consecutive All-Star Game.
He enjoys being labeled “the best big man in basketball,” and he’s called himself “unstoppable,” but he thinks he needs to expand his game. The three-point shot is not going to disappear from his repertoire, though he only shot 30 percent from long range this regular season on 4.1 attempts per game.
“You kind of have to get the ball out of my hands, and that’s what Toronto did,” he said. "I think the ball was in the air and there were already two guys on me the whole series. … I just can’t be a post player. I have to do more. I have the put the ball on the floor, which is probably going to bring my efficiency down, which is fine.
If I’m open, like they always tell me, shoot it. If I’m not, find guys and get them open by setting screens, doing anything. I think I’m definitely going to turn into more of a complete NBA player.”
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