Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers are not where they’d like to be at this point in the NBA season, but he’s not about to blame his teammate Ben Simmons for that. The Sixers big has been frustrated as the team struggles offensively and on the road, leading to a disappointing fifth place position at the All-Star break.
But Embiid addressed the critique that he and Simmons can’t find success on the floor together, arguing that it’s a recent concern that wasn’t the case when the Sixers were putting up better numbers together over the prior two seasons.
“I think it’s B.S.,” Embiid said here Saturday morning before All-Star practice, “because when you look at the last couple years, the last two years that we’ve been playing together, it’s not a problem. This year it’s only been a problem because our offense has struggled.
“It’s definitely going to be better after the All-Star break. I mean, just look at the last two years, what we’ve been able to do. I think it can work, and it’s going to work.”
The ‘fit’ problem has found its loudest supporters this season, while the Sixers struggle to find rhythm on both sides of the ball and are tinkering with their rotation in a post-Jimmy Butler universe. But the offensive struggles with two bigs on the floor has been evident this year: Philadelphia is 20th in offensive rating this season, and the numbers say they get noticeably worse when both are on the floor: going from 2.3 points better than the league average per 100 possessions overall, but just 1.3 when Simmons and Embiid play together.
For Simmons’ part, he says he “loves” playing with Embiid and is preaching patience at the break as well.
“It takes time,” Simmons said. “Not everything is perfect. Not everything works right away. I love playing with Joel. I think he’s an amazing talent, a guy I respect for his game, and I know he feels the same way about me. We continue to go the right way.
“There’s so many different things that we haven’t tried. We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s scary how good we can be.”
Still, time is running out on this season if the Sixers can’t find a scoring touch with Embiid and Simmons playing together. Both are supremely talented, but right now the Sixers haven’t found a five-man unit that can consistently reach the heights the franchise did last season, when they were a basket away from the conference finals.