CHICAGO — Philadelphia has not lived up to expectations this season. Their 34-21 record would have them starting the playoffs on the road, and this team some picked to come out of the East this season (*raises hand*) has not looked like a threat to Milwaukee.
Which has added fuel to the idea that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — the two All-Stars the 76ers have banked their franchise success on — simply don’t fit well together.
Embiid will have none of that.
“I think it’s BS,” Embiid said of the idea while at All-Star media day on Saturday. “Because when you look at the last two years we have been playing together, it was not a problem. This year it’s only a problem because at times our offense has struggled and I think it’s definitely going to be better after the All-Star break.
“I mean, just look at the last two years what we have been able to do and I think it can work and it’s going to work.”
Ben Simmons is on the same page.
“It takes time, not everything is supposed to be perfect…” Simmons said a few feet away from Embiid. “I mean I love playing with Joel, he’s an amazing talent, I have a lot of respect for his game and I know he feels the same way about me, so as long as we strive and continue to go the right way we’ll be fine…
“There’s a lot of things [the 76ers] haven’t tried, we’ve got a lot of talent, it’s kind of scary how good we can be. ”
This year, the Sixers have just a +1.3 net rating when Simmons and Embiid share the court. That is way down from the +7.9 net rating the pair had a season ago, or +15.5 two seasons ago.
What’s changed? The players around Simmons and Embiid. Gone are J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler from last season, two players whose shooting and shot creation opened up space for Embiid to operate in the paint and Simmons to slash his way into that same space. Now, the threat of Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson is not having the same impact (it’s why Furkan Korkmaz has been so crucial for the 76ers, he has been a legitimate threat from deep) and the offense feels clogged.
This has sparked speculation about the Sixers trading Embiid or Simmons. Don’t bet on it. The first move in Philly (as it is with virtually every team where the pieces don’t fit) is to fire the coach and see if a new system solves the problem. That is the likely path if the 76ers continue to fall short of expectations once the playoffs start.
Embiid isn’t worried about any of it.