Joel Embiid looked exhausted after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. During a 99-90 loss, he lost 44 minutes while struggling through the pain of a broken face and sprained thumb. After his fourth second-round playoff exit in five years, Embiid seemed speechless.
“Tonight I tried to really be on the floor the whole game and I didn’t want to take any breaks,” Embiid told reporters. “The season was on the line, so I just wanted to do everything I could and have no regrets.”
The Sixers fell into the Heat anyway. Now Embiid is anticipating surgery on a torn ligament in his right thumb, although he may be able to avoid a second operation to repair a broken orbital bone. He must consult with the team doctors to determine the final course of action for both injuries.
Whatever the case, the All-Star center has begun preparing its body and mind for the long off-season ahead. That starts and ends with some hard personnel decisions. And Embiid doesn’t intend to influence what the front office does this summer.
“If I were completely sane, you don’t know what could have happened, but the facts are we’re lost,” Embiid said. “But what we have to do, I’m not the GM. I’m not the president. I don’t make those decisions. These guys will do anything to win the championship and if it means trading people or signing new people or trading me, uh, that’s what they’re going to do and do whatever they believe it is will give them a chance to win the championship. But my goal remains the same, it’s to win everything and I feel like I’ve gotten better every season and there’s still another level to go.”
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Embiid mentioned he was traded a few times during his post-game press conference on Thursday night. The Sixers star made a bigger point of being a commodity that can be bought and sold. Contracts can be torn up and organizations can move on without apologies.
“You can trade me anytime. Everything has a price,” Embiid said. “You never know what can happen, I’m sure there are some Philly fans who want that.”
The original question to Embiid was whether he wanted more say in staffing decisions. He chose not to answer that while keeping an embarrassed grin on his face.
“Like I said, I’m not the GM. You can trade me anytime,” Embiid said. “I don’t know. I came home two days ago and got the best award I could get, it was Most Valuable Father.”
Sixers players kept talking about losing the physical fight against Miami. The Heat would dive for every free ball, fight for every second chance rebound and rise to contest every shot. Tyrese Maxey called them “grown men” and Tobias Harris praised them “Mental strength.”
The Sixers couldn’t compete with those incorrigible intangibles. According to Embiidthe Sixers need more guys like PJ Tucker to do the dirty work it takes to win championships.
“You look at a guy like PJ Tucker, a great player, but it’s not about him putting down shots. It’s about what he’s doing defensively and rebounding the ball. He plays with so much energy defensively that he can’t get from point A to point B. And he thinks nobody can beat him and he’s strong.
“And he’s physical and he’s tough. And they’ve got a bunch of these guys, be it Bam [Adebayo] and all these boys. Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said we had guys like this. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never have PJ Tucker, I’m really trying to say that.”