Joel Embiid on MVP: ‘I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else’

MVP candidates Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic in Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers
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76ers center Joel Embiid has been trying for years to win MVP.

After leading the race at times last season, he finished second to Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Embiid again led much of this season, but he has fallen behind Jokic – and maybe even Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Embiid, via Tom Withers of the Associated Press:

“If it happens, great,” he said of winning his first MVP. “If it doesn’t, I don’t know what I have to do. I’ll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else.”

Classic media (whose votes determine MVP). Vote for the guys in Denver and Milwaukee just to spite the large East Coast city.

Are there biases in award voting? Of course. But it’s tough to see an anti-Philadelphia or anti-Embiid skew. If anything, Embiid probably benefits from voter fatigue for Jokic (2021 MVP) and Antetokounmpo (2019 and 2020 MVP).

What more does Embiid need to do? Outplay Jokic, Antetokounmpo and everyone else in the race. As well as Embiid has performed, he hasn’t quite met that incredibly high standard. It’s nothing personal. If Embiid does that – or, even gets close, given the mounting voter-fatigue issues – he’ll probably win the award.

So far, Embiid’s desire to win MVP has spurred him to work harder. He has gotten into better shape, refined his skills and upped his intensity. That’s exactly what you want from a player focused on an individual award.

But there’s also a risk of whining and getting preoccupied. With Daryl Morey in charge in Philadelphia, the concern is elevated. With the Rockets, Morey once said maybe we shouldn’t award MVP at all after James Harden repeatedly fell short. A woe-is-me attitude infected Houston’s larger culture.

Again, Embiid has taken the opposite approach. If he continues to do so, that’ll be great for him and the 76ers. Disappointment can fuel greatness. This latest quote at least sounds like unhealthy self-victimization. But ultimately, Embiid’s actions more than his words will show his response.