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Opinion

The Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid experiment is over

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Roar Rookie
4th March, 2020
7
1065 Reads

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder last week against Cleveland, only days after Ben Simmons re-aggravated his back injury.

This experiment is over.

Sometimes you put it all on the line and still you just come up short. Whether it’s your job, your school, relationships and so on.

You put in all of this work, all of this time and every last part of you just wants it to somehow come through, but it doesn’t.

It fails and now it’s time to move on. That’s how this Embiid-Simmons situation feels.

Everyone wanted Philly to be a success story. Maybe because as humans we instinctively root for the underdog, and believe me the 76ers are underdogs.

Go all the way back to when the Sixers had fan-favourite Allen Iverson, who should have retired a champion, but just happened to run into the LA Lakers who had the two best players in the league on one team. And once they lost Iverson, they were bad, really bad.

They made every bad decision in free agency that you can make.

They signed Elton Brand then Andrew Bynum, who didn’t even play because he was injured.

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But then they start the process, where they openly lose games to acquire draft picks and find Embiid. This 214 cm kid from Cameroon, who loves to talk trash, play physical and play in the post in a game where the centre position is shifting rapidly to “go out over to your corner and be ready to shoot it if you get the ball”.

Instead, Embiid comes in, dominates games his way – the traditional way. A present-day reminder of classic 90s basketball.

Next, they found Embiid a partner. Ben Simmons, already an Australian legend. Acts, dresses, carries himself like a superstar. He’s dating Kendell Jenner. Truly another fan-favourite for the 76ers.

And like every relationship sitcom that we grow to love, the duo went through the rough times and made it out on top. Drafting a bust with the first pick, the whole Jimmy Butler scandal, the media constantly saying Embiid and Simmons were beefing off the court.

I’m not saying they need to break up because of chemistry, I’m saying they need to break up because it’s the only practical basketball response for a basketball conundrum.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and Sacramento Kings forward Garrett Temple

(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Have a look at the facts: they are both injury-prone. When building a team around a duo, you better make sure one of those superstars are not injury-prone, because when one goes down the other has to play big minutes, has to carry the team, putting himself at a higher risk of injury.

Which is exactly what just happened to Embiid.

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They both play better without each other. When Ben Simmons went down with a back injury against the Bucks, the next game Joel Embiid dropped a career-high 49 points.

Is that just a coincidence? Whenever I say Embiid plays better without Simmons, everyone gets all riled up and dishes out these confusing reasons why these games are exceptions and not the rule, and why Simmons and Embiid feed of each other, but the truth is much more simple: without Simmons driving to the basket, the lane will be open for Embiid to play his game.

Simmons refuses to shoot from deep, leading me to believe that this very basic situation will not resolve itself.

And it is the same for Simmons, who needs to be surrounded with four knockdown shooters and not have Embiid clogging up the middle of the floor. Simmons has averaged more points, rebounds and assists per possession when he’s on the floor without Embiid.

Again, not a coincidence.

When you think back to some of the greatest NBA duos in history, the players made up for the other’s weaknesses and highlighted the other’s strengths. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Steph Curry and Draymond Green.

Considering both Embiid and Simmons are without a doubt great, why don’t we feel as confident in this tandem as we do for the rest?

I don’t buy into things my gut tells me not to so I’m not going to invest in Simmons and Embiid winning a championship together. They can go and play in separate teams, teams built around highlighting their strengths and hiding their weaknesses, but together?

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Absolutely not.