In his interview on 97.5 The Fanatic Tuesday morning, Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey covered a wide range of topics, including a lot concerning James Harden. The Beard has one foot out the door, though, so what about what this team will look like post-Harden, either when he’s traded or heads off as a free agent next summer? More specifically, should fans be worried about Joel Embiid getting frustrated with the team’s second-round quagmire and follow in Harden’s footsteps with a trade request?
Asked about needing to get out of Round 2 and fans being frustrated, Morey had this to say:
“I know. And look, I live here in Center City; I talk to fans all the time. I talk to them on Twitter. They’re very passionate. They give me the business. Everyone should know that I care. I care as much as them. I feel their pain. Look, losing the way we did and the fact it’s happened over and over … I do nothing else but try to figure out how to get this team over the hump. And the reality is sometimes that involves some pain and not doing things that are short-term thinking. We need to make sure that Joel Embiid, who’s one of the best players on earth, has a top running mate. That could be Maxey taking a leap forward this year. Coach Nurse I know is very excited about his conversations with Joel and how he’s going to use him. I still can’t believe how he keeps getting better, and I think Coach Nurse is very excited to continue to do that.”
OK, so Embiid needs a top running mate. That’s maybe easier said than done, but the right mindset to have, at least. But what did Daryl think about Joel saying he wants to win a championship, “whether that’s in Philly or anywhere else”?
“Yeah, he had some fun with that yesterday. That was a very Joel day yesterday.”
Maybe the fan base doesn’t want to be trolled right now?
“I think that’s very fair. Look, we can’t really prove that again until next year, so we’ll keep pushing in that direction. He made those comments a bunch of days ago at sort of a semi-private event; they just got published. I spoke to him at length yesterday. He spoke to Coach Nurse yesterday. He’s very excited. Coach Nurse is planning to do some innovative things for training camp that Joel’s excited about. He and I spoke. Look, part of it’s just, at the end of the day, he’s talking about the business of the NBA. In his mind, he wants to win here. He wants to win it for Philly. That’s the only place he wants to win. He absolutely was referencing that it’s not totally in his control where he is at all times.”
Well, that’s encouraging to hear. Towards the end of the interview, Morey was asked what he would tell weary, skeptical Sixers fans right now:
“I would say look, we feel you. We feel your frustration. We have one of the best players to ever lace ‘em up in Joel Embiid. That’s a special thing. We don’t take it for granted. We’re going to miss him when he’s 45 years old and in the Hall of Fame as a 76er. And we’re going to continue to bring in great players who are young and can step up — like a Maxey — or pull off trades to bring in key players. But we love a lot of the players that we currently have, whether that be a Maxey, a Melton, a PJ Tucker, a Tobias. But we know we need more, and we’re going to continue to do more. We have a special player, so we need to focus on the now and give ourselves the best chance to win, but also set ourselves up to make sure that we’re always giving Joel the best chance to win while he’s here.”
While this Harden situation is likely to make for a tortuous offseason, based on Morey’s comments, it doesn’t seem like fans have to worry about Embiid setting his sights on greener pastures any time soon. So ignore Knicks media trying to push the narrative that they’re keeping an eye on him. Ignore oddsmakers posting lines on Joel’s next destination. The Sixers have enough problems going on right now; we don’t need to invent another one regarding the league MVP.