Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid received plenty of criticism for not playing against the Denver Nuggets, or more specifically, fellow MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. Embiid himself had a response to this during his postgame press conference after the Sixers beat the Dallas Mavericks.
“I don’t care,” Embiid told reporters, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “Like I said, it’s all about the playoffs. I mean, if one game was going to hurt anybody’s chances, I guess everybody should be out of it. We all have bad games, guys miss matchups, that’s not the first time and it’s not really a matchup about me and Nikola. He’s a great player, an amazing player. Like I always say, back-this-back MVPs, he’s one of the best players in the league and I’m a huge fan.”
Embiid admitted that he’s disappointed that he didn’t play against Jokic, but stressed that the playoffs are more of a concern to him than a regular season matchup against the two-time MVP and that the notion that he was avoiding the matchup was stupid.
“Not playing against him was a huge bummer, but there’s a bigger goal in sight and that’s to make sure we’re healthy for the playoffs, and, like I said, I got nothing to prove,” Embiid said. “The last matchup, we won and I had whatever I had. To go out there and say I’m scared after what I did the last time is kind of stupid, but, like I said, I don’t care if I win it or not.”
Joel Embiid Says He’ll Be Fine For Playoffs
After the Sixers beat the Mavericks, Embiid admitted that he’s not currently at 100%, but said that he would be fine for when the playoffs start.
“I’m getting there. Obviously, I’m not at my best, but I’m glad we got the win tonight, and we gotta keep building together stronger. I think by the time the players come around, I’ll be fine and ready to go,” Embiid said.
Against the Mavericks, Embiid put up 25 points and nine rebounds while shooting eight-for-19 from the field, but his plus/minus of plus-10 was the highest among starters and third-highest on the team, behind only Jalen McDaniels and De’Anthony Melton.
Nikola Jokic Praises Joel Embiid
After the Nuggets beat the Sixers, Jokic praised Embiid for being as talented as he is during his postgame press conference, believing he will go down as one of the greats.
“I think he’s a great player,” Jokic said. “I think he’s gonna be remembered as one of the most dominant players in the league. The guy’s a beast and he’s so talented. He can affect in many ways on the floor. He can post up. He can face up; he can shoot threes. He can defend really well. He can, in some situations, guard one through five. So he’s really, I think he’s a really, really good player.”
Embiid and Jokic were drafted the same year, though neither played the following season after they were drafted, as Jokic got his start during the 2015-16 season and Embiid got his start the season afterward. Over the last three years, the two of them have gone toe-to-toe in the MVP race, with Jokic winning the award the last two seasons.