Joel Embiid sat down with Shams and talked NBA MVP, Advanced Analytics, and the Sixers’ upcoming playoff run
As we all witnessed yesterday after he was ruled out of the Philadelphia 76ers game against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets last night, Joel Embiid is locked in on winning an NBA Championship over the highly debated NBA MVP Award.
In a recent sit down with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Embiid spoke on a variety of topics, including the NBA MVP, advanced analytics, and his new approach to the playoffs this season.
Joel Embiid on the pursuit of the NBA MVP Award
“The last two years I feel like I wasn’t chasing MVP … but my mind was only thinking about it,” Embiid told The Athletic recently. “That’s why even at the beginning of this season, when JT was going off and Boston was on this run, I told JT: If I got any advice for you, don’t focus on MVP. Just focus on the right things, which is winning games and dominating. Whatever helps your team win, that’s what you should do, and then everything will take care of itself.
“So for me, I also took that approach where I was like, the last few years, I could have probably had one MVP or whatever, and it didn’t happen. I just said I’m not going to focus on that. I’ve gotten to the point where people are used to me and people are putting the type of expectations on me. The only way I’m going to get that respect is by winning a championship. Whatever gets me to the playoffs healthy, that’s what I’ve got to do. Starting off the season not slowly, but one step at a time, building up to this point where I’m playing up to this point and just dominating offensively and defensively, it’s worked out well for me.
“When you worry about the right things, which is winning basketball and doing whatever it takes — whatever happens, happens.”
Joel Embiid on pieces falling into place for the Sixers with the addition of James Harden
“Yeah, I did feel like everything fell in place,” Embiid said. “I think everybody started understanding their role. Everybody understood that everything has to go through Joel, and once everybody was in line with that, we took off.
“Offensively, when James doesn’t play, I gotta take on different responsibilities as far as playmaking. I got the best playmaker in the world — James Harden. I don’t need to be passing the ball and making plays for my teammates the whole game. I like to score the ball, and most of the time, James sets me up to do that. And when he doesn’t play, I take on that role as far as playmaking. As soon as we started understanding this is how it’s going to go, this is what it will take for us to win, we took off.”
Joel Embiid on health heading into the playoffs
“I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt my whole career, especially this late into the season and going into the playoffs. That’s my focus. I’m ready for a big run. I think (we) got the right guys, so it’s all about us coming together and showing up and everybody doing their job.”
Joel Embiid on the MVP Award coming more organically this season
“It is coming naturally. Even against the Bulls (on March 22), I could have easily stat-padded if I wanted to, but I don’t care.”
“I could have easily come back in and got a triple-double and make sure that I keep going after the scoring title. Or keep the 30-point streaks going or whatever. But I don’t care. I think mentally I’ve gotten to a different level where it’s all about winning.”
“What matters — it’s just about winning, winning, winning. I’ve been focused on that. We’ve been doing that. Whatever happens, happens. If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.”
Embiid on the MVP Award voting criteria changing every year
The criteria does change. If we want to talk about the last three years since I’ve been in the running for it, the first year it was that I didn’t play enough games. Last year, I came back, I played enough games, I led the league in scoring, and obviously, Nikola deserved it and he won it. But then again, he won as a sixth seed in the West. And then this year, I’m leading the league in scoring, I’m doing all of these things defensively … I should be making an All-Defensive team too. I don’t care, but every year it’s something. And when you add analytics into it, which don’t make sense. You can talk about analytics all you want. When you got some guys in the league, the eye test tells you that they’re not good defensively, but analytics tell you they’re the best defenders. That’s when analytics don’t make sense at all. I don’t make the rules, I don’t choose whatever criteria that they use, so it’s really about whatever people’s preferences are.
People always thought that I was crazy when I said this — I really believe that I’m not well-liked. And it’s cool with me, that’s fine. I’ll be the bad guy. I like being the a–hole anyway. I like being the underdog. So that’s fine with me. My thing is, when I leave the game of basketball, I want to make sure that people looked at me as … it’s hard to be the greatest ever because you’ve got to win a bunch of championships and not everyone is lucky to do it because only one team can win and you have to have the right pieces around you … but when I leave the game, I want to make sure that they say: No one was stopping him offensively and defensively, and he was a monster.
That’s why I play the game — for the respect. I put in too much work. If you look at the beginning of my career and where I have been taking my game, offensively I’ve become like a guard.
Joel Embiid “Title or Bust Mentality”
Not necessarily. I don’t care about the pressure that everybody puts on me. All I care about is the pressure that I put on myself to win. People have been talking about who has the most pressure to win. People want to mention me. I’m not at the top of that list. I’m not a two-time MVP, I’ve never made first team All-NBA, I’ve never won anything. So why is there pressure on me to do something when there are guys that have won two MVPs, a bunch of MVPs and haven’t done anything either?
I feel it’s hard to win in this league. You got two great teams in Milwaukee and Boston in my conference. So we have to play them at some point. Those are two really good teams, and it’s going to be a fight to beat them. But I think we match up extremely well with each team, and for us to win, we have to be almost perfect. Everybody has to show up. I got to do my job. James has got to do his job. Tyrese (Maxey) has to show up. Tobias (Harris). The role players, the bench, we all have to come in and do our jobs. For us to win, we have to be perfect, and it’s going to take everybody.
I’m so excited. Hopefully no freak injuries happen like the last couple years where I get unlucky, but I feel like this is, as far as myself and how I can take my guys, I have a pretty good chance.
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