Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has been posting double-doubles on a torn meniscus every single night in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Yet the Sixers trail the Atlanta Hawks 3-2 in the series after an epic meltdown in Game 5.
The team made NBA history by blowing a 26-point lead in the second half. It marked only the fourth time a team gave up a lead of 18+ points heading into the fourth quarter and lost the game.
The Sixers also witnessed the largest comeback in Hawks’ franchise history and the fourth biggest comeback in league history. After the game, Embiid’s future in Philadelphia became a trending topic on Twitter. Would the runner-up for MVP request a trade out of town following a second-round playoff exit?
Miami Heat fans were quick to cite Embiid’s well-documented relationship with Jimmy Butler. The two were fast friends during their 55 games together in Philly and a reunion had been rumored last year after Embiid teased it on social media. Embiid has two years remaining on the $148 million deal he inked in 2019, plus the All-Star center just became eligible for another $191 million max extension.
The financials would be tight for Miami, but going out and getting a “giant whale” has been Heat president Pat Riley’s stated goal dating back to last offseason. There would be no bigger fish to catch than the 7-foot, 280-pounder from Cameroon. He averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game in 2021 while setting career-bests in free-throw percentage (85.9%), field-goal percentage (54.5%), three-point percentage (37.7%).
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‘Villains Welcome’ in South Beach, per Butler
Butler fueled rumors of Embiid landing in South Beach last year when he replied to an Instagram post by saying: “I know a place where villains are welcome.” The man known as “The Process” had gotten into it with Sixers fans back in February 2020 and let his feelings be known. Embiid and Butler have openly talked about their friendship so it wasn’t a surprise to see his former teammate come rushing to his defense. However, the comments were borderline “tampering” by NBA standards.
While nothing ended up coming out of the exchange, it did get reporters in both Philadelphia and Miami thinking. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald even threw out a trade idea that sent Embiid to the Heat in exchange for Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo. Here is what Jackson wrote at the time:
While Embiid’s tweets suggesting he misses Butler has raised hopes of some Heat fans. It’s difficult to envision a Heat/76ers trade, with Philadelphia very likely to demand [Bam] Adebayo and [Tyler] Herro in such a scenario. This might need to wait until free agency in 2023 if Embiid still hasn’t won big by then.
Sixers Would Never Trade Embiid
The thought of the Sixers trading Embiid is about as far-fetched as a Philly fan throwing peppers on a cheesesteak. It’s never going to happen. Embiid is the best player on the roster and the cornerstone of the franchise. If push came to shove, the front office would show Ben Simmons the door over Embiid. They were in talks to trade the All-Star point guard for James Harden this offseason, per multiple reports.
But — if lightning struck and pigs started flying — the one team that could make sense is the Miami Heat. They have flexible cap space and a few moveable pieces (see: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Precious Achiuwa) — along with the biggest trump card of all: Jimmy Butler. Embiid loves that guy.
“That’s my guy,” Embiid told reporters when the Heat and Sixers met in 2019. “Obviously we talk a lot, but we’ve got to get the win. They [Miami] have been doing pretty good.”
Butler quickly returned the favor, too. He harbored no hard feelings toward Embiid following his departure from Philly.
“That’s my guy,” Butler said, in regards to Embiid (via Sports Illustrated). “Outside of basketball, I love that man to death. He knows that. I tell him every opportunity I get.”