We are days away from the NBA All-Star break, and the Philadelphia 76ers are in the midst of a home stand at the Wells Fargo Center after a four-game roadie that saw the team lose all four games at Atlanta, Boston, Miami, and Milwaukee.
The Sixers rebounded with back-to-back home wins against the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls. If you were clicking this article hoping for a personal minute-by-minute breakdown of the epic level of Furkan Korkmaz being popped (65 points in 61 minutes; 13-of-20 from 3), that may come later. That’s not what people are talking about to start the week.
Let me paint the canvas of this scenario real quick.
During Friday night’s 119-107 win over the Grizzlies, new Sixers free agent Al Horford “shushed” the home crowd in attendance after making a 3-pointer (his first of the game that night) in the third quarter to put the Sixers up 79-53. Uncalled for? Perhaps. Grounds for unrelenting ire from some fans and some media? Totally, and “Jesus Christ, Al. What are you thinking?”
Horford did it again in the fourth on another made 3 that put the Sixers up 21. I mean. If you’re going to piss people off, Al, you might as well go the full nine, right? The big man said this about the motion in post-game:
I’m gonna hold that stuff to myself, but eventually I’ll talk about it. ... I’ll talk about it eventually. I don’t have a celebration really — a three-point celebration — so that could be the start of something.
Listen, Al. You don’t have to lie to me. I know what you were doing. The home crowd had some of the loudest boos for you and Brett Brown during pre-game introductions on Friday night, so I get it. I wouldn’t advise making that a permanent part of your repertoire, but hey, you do you, big man. I will say it doesn’t help your cause when you come out in the next game against the Bulls and have a fat ol’ donut in the points column.
Then, we come to the more egregious moment of the weekend in the eyes of some, courtesy of one Joel Hans Embiid:
Joel Embiid tells the crowd to STFU after this dagger pic.twitter.com/BRHlZXtC5w— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) February 10, 2020
It was a dagger 3-pointer that iced the game against the Bulls – a game that shouldn’t have needed icing in the beginning, but that’s another story for another time.
The next thought I had was: “Oh, dear lord in heaven, Jesus Christ. This is going to play VERY well in this town of kneejerk overreactions.” There’s no such thing as calculated, measured debates in sports media, anymore – especially in Philadelphia. Of course, this isn’t going to go over well, and shame on you if you thought it would go any other way.
Embiid’s response was … interesting. Allegedly, he was “talking to himself” and “getting back to being a ‘good a-hole’.” I don’t know what that means, nor do I want to try and assume what Embiid actually meant. If it means that he’s going back to the old fun-loving Joel that I enjoy, then I’m all for it. I just don’t know what it means, so I’m going to let it play out. That won’t stop any of my colleagues in media from doing the exact opposite.
I don’t knock the crowd for booing. The Sixers hadn’t been playing well in four games on the road, so it was natural to think there would be some retaliation. Here’s my issue with the whole scenario, and I’ll put it in this parallel. If you or someone you know is being bullied and that person fights back, why does the person fighting back get backlash?
That makes no sense. You bullied Embiid or Horford (who, again, had zero points against the Bulls and faced no such vitriol) or whomever, but then when he fights back or gives you the result you want, he gets “attacked”.
Why is Embiid getting comments like this from one of my many journalistic nemeses, Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who said this in his column, yesterday (Editor’s Note: We are not linking to Hayes’ article. Sorry, not sorry.):
This is who Embiid is. It is who he always has been: a mercenary millionaire temporarily transplanted to the Delaware Valley to maximize his revenue stream. He cares as much about Hulu and Under Armour as he does about the franchise and fans that employ him.
Let me dissect that because there’s A LOT to try and understand. Just let me do it so your head doesn’t explode mid-sentence. The “mercenary millionaire” bit is slightly nonsensical because if that were true, he would’ve done what he could to leave Philadelphia and go to a city like New York, Los Angeles, or Miami to maximize his revenue stream even more. He chose to stay, so let’s just disregard that for now.
Secondly, the fact that he cares “as much” about his sponsorships as he does the franchise isn’t a problem. It would be more of a problem if he cared about his sponsorships MORE than the franchise, but since his performance is in parallel with his sponsorships, that also makes no sense. No one is going to sponsor an NBA journeyman. Let’s be real about this, Marcus.
It’s almost as bad on Twitter as it is in print.
There is one thing I can say with complete certainty about Philadelphia sports fans: Never shush them. What Joel Embiid did last night was more than just stupid. It was insulting to a fan base that has helped the Sixers achieve a 24-2 record at home. Shame on him.— Angelo Cataldi (@AngeloCataldi) February 10, 2020
I don’t have time for you, Angelo. I never did. I’ll let the people in the comments in this post handle my light work. (Again, attacking the person that was bullied after getting the result that you wanted.)
The only person running him out of town is himself. Tell him to put his big boy pants on and play ball. It's really that simple.— Tony Cutillo (@TCutillo23) February 10, 2020
“Put your big boy pants on”? Does anyone else hate this phrase, or is it just me? What the hell else is Embiid supposed to do? Only in Philadelphia can a man average 23 points and 12 rebounds per game with a .195 WS/48 this season and still be told to “put his big boy pants on”. Do I have to remind you gentlemen that Embiid broke his finger and tore ligaments in his left hand? He came back in two weeks (whether you agree with it or not) when that injury is a month-plus.
Folks, his big boy pants are on and cinched quite tightly. Actually, I’ll just let a colleague at Liberty Ballers, Sohil Doshi, give his opinion on such a statement that he provided via our Slack channel:
Why can’t more people be like ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi, a Philadelphian born-and-bred, and an alum of Temple University?
Were people in Philly really insulted by @JoelEmbiid shushing?? C’mon man. Relax. Fans boo cause we care. It’s nice to see some emotion from the big fella in the game as well. If that’s get this thing back on track, bring back the trash talking Joel. https://t.co/ey1EUx8EdK— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) February 10, 2020
Exactly. This is precisely the stance I’m taking.
I don’t care what Embiid has to do in order to get back to being the most dominant big man in the NBA, and he has all of the talent and ability to do so. He’s being told that he’s “soft” – another “means nothing” word in the sports journalism lexicon. He’s being told that he’s a baby – again, he returned from a broken finger and torn ligaments ahead of schedule. “Soft” and “baby” are not words I’d use to describe this man.
Could it be that I’m overprotective of him? Possibly, but then again, I also said on Twitter and in public that I’m okay with sitting Embiid until after the All-Star break if he’s not 100 percent or doesn’t have his ‘ess’ together. Criticizing Embiid is real easy for me when the need arises. This isn’t one of those times, nor should it be.
Ease up on the throttle a little bit, you guys. You’re “redlining” the engines, and we haven’t even hit the playoffs. Many more things are going to happen between now and May/June that should get your pistons firing. Let this one go.