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.