Listening to the ESPN broadcast on March 23 it sure sounded like Joel Embiid was a lock to win MVP. The Philadelphia 76ers center has been bullying his way to the league’s highest honor while staying off the injury report. He is on pace to set a new career-high for games played.
It might not be enough to steal the hardware away from Nikola Jokic. The reigning MVP has been throwing his weight around over the past few weeks, including a triple-double on Monday night against Charlotte. According to ESPN, it is Jokic — and not Embiid — who has the “inside track” to claim the Maurice Podoloff Trophy after a recent straw poll earned him 62 first-place votes to Embiid’s 29.
The race is far from over with eight games left on the schedule, although the winner of that poll has won the award in four straight seasons. Good news: there is a precedent for Embiid to win, via Tim Bontemps:
This year’s voting most closely mirrors the 2017 race, the first year that this straw poll was conducted. In that year’s final ballot, then-Houston Rockets guard James Harden held a similarly narrow lead over then-Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook with a few weeks to go, only for Westbrook to capture the MVP by becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for a season.
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Embiid Comments on Navigating Tough Situation
Embiid has endured more than most human beings can handle in a given year. He has been battling a sore back virtually all year while surviving a serious bout with COVID-19. And … all that nonsense got overshadowed by the ridiculousness of the Ben Simmons’ situation.
If anyone deserves the MVP trophy, it’s Embiid. He probably should win something even greater, like a Humanitarian Award.
“It was a tough situation to navigate and go through (with Simmons). Even to this day, I don’t have any hard feelings towards everything that happened,” Embiid told The Athletic. “But being in my position, having to answer questions about that whole thing every single day, it was kind of draining. And I’m sure it was draining for my teammates. So the drama was pretty crazy, but my whole thing going into the season was to come in and try to be a better leader.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo Coming to Town
Giannis Antetokounmpo — the third player in the MVP conversation — will be visiting Philadelphia on Tuesday night when the Sixers host the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. The two-time MVP was listed probable on the NBA injury report with a knee injury. DeAndre Bembry remains out due to season-ending surgery to repair the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia had a clean bill of health heading into the contest. No players were listed on the injury report. Jaden Springer, Myles Powell, Charlie Brown Jr., and Charles Bassey have been ruled out due to their G League commitments.