PHILADELPHIA — After acquiring James HardenAt the trade deadline, Philadelphia 76ersThey hoped that this would be their year and they would make it to the conference finals and then on to the NBA playoffs.
Philadelphia lost 99-90 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for its fourth season in five years. Miami Heat. Harden was not a factor in the game. He took just nine shots, including two in halftime. Harden scored 11 points.
This led to Joel EmbiidThe 76ers did NOT win the Harden version that won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. They also finished in the top 3 in voting three times.
“Everyone expected the Houston James Harden since we got him,” Embiid stated. He is not the same person anymore. He is more of a gamer. At times I felt he could be more aggressive, which was something that all of us could have done. We all agreed that it was. Tyrese [Maxey]Or Tobias [Harris]Or guys getting off the bench.
“And that's not all I mean offensively. It's the team as a whole, both offensively and defensively. As a team, I wasn't convinced we were very good at defense. They took advantage a lot of things that we tried to do defensively. Offensively, it was just about everyone being on the same page. We only had three to four months to work together and figure it all out. It wasn't necessarily a lot. … I don't believe we played our best basketball.”
In Games 5 and 6, the 76ers didn't play their best basketball after Philadelphia had won Games 3 & 4 at Wells Fargo Center. The Heat ran them off the court twice to win the series.
Embiid stated that the loss could not be pinned on one player and that everyone had to look in the mirror to learn how to improve.
“Everybody needs to improve,” Embiid declared. “It's not about me, it's about everyone.” [Harden]. We lost to Miami because of the numbers 1 through 15. This means that we were all not good enough. Everyone has to do better.
When asked about what the 76ers must improve on as a team, Embiid pointed out the team he just played — the Heat — and stated that the 76ers needed to be more tough, pointing specifically at Heat forward P.J. TuckerHe is the type of man he has never played against in his entire career.
“For sure,” Embiid said. “I mean we've had many tough guys since my time here. It was Mike Scott that I remember. He didn't play many minutes but if you have size, toughness and a lot of heart, it can make a big difference.
“P.J. is a great player. Tucker is a great player but it's about more than just him making shots. It's what he does. It doesn't really matter if it's defensive or rebounding. He is a great defensive player. He has so much energy and believes you can get to any point. There are a few of them, whether it be in the form of Bam [Adebayo]All those guys.
“Since my arrival here, I wouldn't lie if I said we've had those types of guys. We have everything we need. It's the truth. P.J. has never been with us. Tucker. That's what I mean. The physicality is the same. [increases]You need it, especially when you reach the playoffs or later rounds. You need guys who are tough.”
Embiid also talked about Tucker. He also reaffirmed his love for Heat star Jimmy ButlerHe was his teammate here for a few month three years before he moved to Miami.
It was actually three years ago on Thursday that Philadelphia's Season ended in Game 7 at Toronto. Kawhi LeonardEmbiid and Butler teamed-up in the playoffs for the first time ever –‘s forever shot. Embiid acknowledged that he wished he had more opportunities to play with Butler in the postseason.
“Obviously, that's mine,” Embiid stated. “That's my brother. Oh, man, it's tough. But he's so proud. He is playing at an unbelievable level right now. He's a different kind of player right now. He's a proud man for being able to carry them, and I am proud of what he has accomplished. They have had their ups, downs throughout the season. They were missing guys and not being healthy but they managed to remain the East's number one team. To be able to do what they did, they are deserving of a lot. They have a great team and great players. Great coaching and a great front offensive are just a few of the many things that make them so special. You owe them a lot.
“Like you said, I'm happy that he is my teammate. I don't mean to say that I didn’t wish he was my friend or teammate. I don't know why we let him go. I wish I could have gone to war with him. It is what it is. It is up to me to keep working hard and continue building towards that goal.
Embiid doesn't play with Butler. He is instead playing with Harden. Harden saw another disappointing postseason end with his disappearing act Game 6. Harden only took two shots in the second quarter. The second came very late in the fourth quarter after the game had already been decided.
Harden answered the question, “We ran our offense. What caused it to go away offensively?” It just didn't come back to me.”
Harden did have a few more words to say about his future in Philadelphia. Harden is given the option to choose whether to take the $47 million player option and lock it in, extend his contract with the 76ers or decline it.
Harden said that regardless of what option he chooses he'll still be playing here.
Harden declared, “I'll always be here.”
When asked if he would accept less money, he replied, “Anything that allows us to continue growing and getting better and doing the things necessary for winning and competing at a high-level.”
The 76ers need more to be competitive at the level they want to, it is evident. Doc Rivers, the coach of the 76ers, said repeatedly after the game that his team wasn't good enough to beat Heat and suggested that the roster must improve.
Harris stated that the team's mental toughness against Miami was a problem, and Embiid made similar comments about Philadelphia's toughness.
Harris stated that it was not easy to fix. Harris said, “But it's not easy to fix. But I believe it comes down to the intention. It's all about the intention. Every man to himself, with the same intent. The energy you bring into the game is a big part of it. This is something that we have, I will admit, shown throughout this year. It has shown us how great we are and, when things are going well, how mentally tough. On the other side, I don't think we did a great job when things weren't going our direction.
The 76ers will now have an offseason in which to consider the possibility of it not going their way and all the consequences that could result.
Embiid stated that he will still need surgery to repair the torn ligament of his right thumb but that he does not expect to need it to fix his facial fracture. He admitted that he was disappointed that he couldn't make it through the regular season with his health intact.
Embiid declared, “I don't regret because it's my life.” “It happens. It happens. You just have to learn how to handle it. It is a pain. It's not that you should make excuses. But these are facts. It's a miserable experience. I doubt anyone will believe that I was 100%. It's hard to reach the stage and not feel yourself. Your body doesn't allow you to be who you are. Although it hurts, I don't regret it.