The holiday season is upon us and Sixers center Joel Embiid wants something special for his beloved Philadelphia this year. He wants to put a Larry O’Brien trophy under the tree, believing he “owes” it to the city that shaped his career. “I want to win really bad for this city. I’ve been here for a long time,” said Embiid, the team’s leading scorer last year at 23 points per game. “I want to play for one city the rest of my career and this is where I want to be.”
After failing to win a postseason game in the Orlando Bubble this summer (Boston swept them in four, excruciating games), many wondered whether the “Process” had reached its logical conclusion with Philadelphia maxing out as a perennial playoff team but below the level of a true contender. There were even rumblings of the Sixers breaking up the power duo of Embiid and Ben Simmons, though new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey decided against it, electing to keep the band together for another go-round in 2021. Instead, he trimmed the fat by pawning Al Horford’s egregious contract off on the unsuspecting Thunder while adding much-needed perimeter help in the form of Danny Green and Seth Curry. Will those additions, along with new coach Doc Rivers, propel the reimagined Sixers to championship status? Embiid sure hopes so.
“I want to make it happen and reward the city and the fans for the trust that they had in me, especially after missing two years and everything that I’ve been through, losing my brother and then starting a family here,” the 26-year-old expressed at Friday’s press conference. “My son was born in Philly. That’s why I want to win so bad.”
Of course, it’s not enough to simply want a title. There are 29 other franchises who want precisely the same thing and probably just as bad. But that doesn’t make Embiid’s devotion to the city that brought him from obscurity to All-Star status any less admirable. The former Kansas Jayhawk seems genuine in his desire to be a Sixers lifer, a rarity in today’s NBA, where even household names like LeBron James and Kevin Durant tend to switch uniforms every few years.
While some have occasionally questioned the seven-footer’s motor, alluding to his subpar conditioning, Embiid seems plenty motivated heading into his seventh season, embracing the team’s title-or-bust mandate. “For the past month and a half, almost two months, I’ve been doing basketball every single day, trying to get better and stay in shape because last year was very disappointing,” Embiid told Brian Seltzer of NBA.com. “A lot of people have the perception of me not working hard or playing hard, but I do. I try my best and, as you can see, I’ve been going at it for quite a while.”
Embiid will continue to hone his game at 76ers training camp, which began at Stockton College in Galloway, New Jersey earlier this week.