Not every blood feud on the court necessarily translates into hard feelings off the hardwood. Take Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid for example; the big man is as much of a troll as anyone, and yet he has a way of earning the respect of even his closest rivals.
That much was true when reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic took to the podium after the All-Star Game Sunday night. When asked about Embiid, Jokic offered a bold take, leaving some to wonder if he was going into salesperson mode.
“If it’s a real game I think we can play together,” Jokic explained. “He needs to play four of course, just because he can defend a little bit more better than I, but I think, and I love to play with a big man who is really dominant. So I think it could work.”
The last two seasons have seen the MVP race come down to Embiid and Jokic, with the latter besting the Sixers star both times. Thus, Jokic-Embiid debates have become stock segments of basketball television and podcasting, with both players having strong camps of supporters and detractors.
But if Embiid and Jokic joined forces, it’s hard to imagine just what that would look like. Jokic’s vision allows him to space the floor tremendously, but the two players are still both centers. The most recent example of two MVP-caliber players joining forces (with apologies to the Luka Doncic-Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant-Devin Booker duos formed this year) is probably either LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers in 2018 or Durant joining Steph Curry and the Warriors in 2015.
Donovan Mitchell Praises a ‘Disrespected’ Embiid
Jokic wasn’t the only one to praise Embiid over the All-Star Weekend.
According to Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell, Embiid is being ‘highly disrespected’ given his performances this year and the value he has to the Sixers franchise.
“I think Joel needs to be highly regarded as well. I think he gets highly disrespected. He’s a guy that consistently, every night, puts on for his group. And even in the past year with the whole Ben (Simmons) situation, not knowing who was going to be on the floor, and he continues to carry his team. I think he deserves a lot of respect in that race (the MVP race) as well,” Mitchell said during his NBA All-Star Media Day press conference.
Ultimately, Embiid got the last laugh over the weekend on Jokic. When it came time to draft the All-Star starters, LeBron James selected Embiid first overall, a slight nod to the disrespect from NBA media against the Sixers star.
Jokic went unselected for several more turns, not hearing his name called until the second-to-last pick.
Embiid Wasn’t an All-Star Guarantee
It’s a minor miracle Embiid even suited up for the All-Star Game. After last week’s win over the Cavaliers, Embiid admitted that he’s hurt enough that he may have to start missing games.
“I’m not healthy,” Embiid said, via ESPN. “I haven’t been healthy for the past three weeks, or month. I was just trying to get to the All-Star break without missing games and stuff. But I feel like I’ve reached the point where I need to follow the doctor’s advice…Back then he said I should have been sitting for two weeks, so we’ll see how the next few days go, and go from there.”
As a result of that health scare, Embiid’s status for the All-Star Game was up in the air. Nonetheless, Embiid showed out at the All-Star Game, notching 32 points and six assists.