76ers center Joel Embiid heard the criticism from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal after Philadelphia’s win over the Nuggets, and he … actually agrees with the “NBA on TNT” analysts?
On Tuesday night, Barkley and O’Neal each praised Embiid’s talent but noted that he isn’t producing enough on a consistent basis. Embiid has seen decreases in his points (27.5 to 22.0), rebounds (13.6 to 12.4) and field goal percentage (48.4 to 45.8) compared to last season, though he is also playing less minutes (33.7 to 30.4). He hit his exact average against Denver with 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting in a matchup with All-Star big man Nikola Jokic.
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“[Embiid is] the toughest player in the league to match up with,” Barkley said. “But we don’t talk about him the way we talk about Luka [Doncic], Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Anthony Davis, James [Harden]. We don’t ever say that about him. And it’s frustrating for me, because I picked the Sixers to get to the Finals … They ain’t got no chance.”
Shaq added: “You want to be great or you want to be good? If you want to be good, keep getting 22 points. You want to be great, give me 28, give me 30. You want to be great, watch Giannis — he wants to be great.”
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Embiid was asked about the evaluations from Chuck and Shaq, but he didn’t fire back with any trash talk or the jokes one might expect.
“Maybe they’re right. Maybe,” Embiid said. “I do think they’re right. I think I need to be more aggressive, and just look to impose myself, just look to dominate. I think the whole season I haven’t done that, and you can see the way it has affected my efficiency and my stats, so I guess I need to go back to having fun and just dominating.
“But I get what they are saying, and I think they’re right, man. I gotta make a change.”
While Embiid has been a force on the defensive end — the Sixers own a top-five defense in large part because of his presence — the 25-year-old is still learning how to work with his new teammates offensively. He routinely faces double-teams in the post, as Philly’s lineups often lack the shooting to punish teams for sending a second defender.
But don’t expect to hear any excuses from Embiid. He knows he is held to a “high standard,” and he accepts the challenge.
“It just feels like if I don’t score 35 points or, I don’t know, 40 points, it feels like it’s a down game, even when I have 30,” Embiid said. “It’s just the way it is. I signed up for it. I want to be great. I put the work in to be at this level and to be better, and I still feel like I have a lot of potential.
“And people feel the same way, so it’s only right for people to expect me to, like Shaq and Charles said, to drop 35 a night.”
Joel Embiid continuing: “I can’t pick & choose whenever I want to dominate. It has to be a nightly thing.
But also talks balance of putting body at risk during regular season + getting to the playoffs healthy. pic.twitter.com/Uuu8vGJdxH
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 12, 2019
Embiid’s next chance to be great? Thursday night against the Celtics in game that will be shown on TNT.