Shepard: 76ers Get Swept, But Joel Embiid Is Still A Winner

The 76ers have problems, but Joel Embiid isn't one of them

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
August 24, 2020 - 3:20 pm
Joel Embiid 76ers

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How can a team get swept and the best player of that swept team be called a winner? Stay with me on this….

For starters, if you take last season, it took a lucky bounce from Kawhi Leonard for the Raptors to escape the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The 76ers player that took it the hardest seemed to be Embiid, who was clearly visibly crying immediately after the game. Embiid in that Game 7 led the 76ers in points, rebounds, and blocks. He was also one assist shy of their point guard, Ben Simmons. The Raptors, as we know, went on to win the NBA title. It was Embiid and the 76ers that came the closest to them in last year’s playoffs.

Fast-forward to a year later against the Boston Celtics in the 2020 postseason. In Game 1, the 76ers lost by three possessions. That isn’t too shabby considering they were missing their second-best player in Ben Simmons due to a severe left knee injury. Keep in mind Simmons would miss the entire series. Embiid put up 26 points on over 50 percent shooting. He also grabbed a game-high 16 boards. In Game 2, Embiid was even better; he dropped a game-high 34 points on over 50 percent shooting. He also had 10 boards to go with it. 

You would figure Embiid would have one off game given the nature of a playoff series when teams become very familiar with each other. He had no dip in any game. In Games 3 and 4, he scored at least 30 points and had double-digit rebounds in each contest. In Game 4, the 76ers’ max-contract player in Tobias Harris fell on the left side of his face and that shifted the momentum to Boston. The 76ers lost by just four points. Despite the sweep, Embiid was the best player from either team in this series. The 76ers were short-handed. Simmons would have been the third-best player in this series. 

With all the credit that Embiid deserves for being consistently great on the court in the 2020 postseason, he showed up EVEN MORE off of the court in 2020. He donated $500,000 to COVID-19 Relief. Even for an NBA Superstar, that is an incredibly generous amount of money. When 76ers managing partner Josh Harris – who is in his mid-50s and with a reported net worth of $5 billion – decided to reduce 76ers employees’ salaries, it was the 26-year-old Embiid who came to the rescue. He pledged to help team employees compensate for what was originally a 20 percent cut in their salaries. Because of Embiid’s wisdom, leadership, and selflessness, Harris ultimately reversed course.

The 76ers, to put it mildly, are going to be heavily criticized by the media this week. There is going to be plenty of discussion surrounding head coach Brett Brown and his future with the franchise. There is going to be much dialogue about the 76ers not just being a disappointment, but the BIGGEST disappointment of the 2019-2020 NBA season. What can’t be ignored is that Embiid showed up and played like a superstar in this postseason. When you don't have your second-best player and go against an incredibly talented team, sweeps happen. They have happened to LeBron, Kobe and even Michael Jordan. That never really gets discussed. 

Embiid should get respect for showing up both on the court and, more importantly, in these most unusual and turbulent times. He is a superstar in every sense of the word. The 76ers have their leading man; it’s now up to management to give him the right pieces because Embiid, as demonstrated on and off the court, will show up. 

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.