Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had a sore night on Tuesday as he injured his back and aggravated his orbital fracture in a Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in their second round playoff. To add insult to injury, Embiid was then asked by reporters about his reaction to reports that the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic would be named MVP.
Embiid said he was not surprised by the news, and had been awaiting the result since a mock poll conducted by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps near the end of the regular season showed most voters were leaning towards Jokic. As a result, he wasn’t particularly upset.
Still, Embiid shared broader thoughts on the voting process and who gets a vote. It’s worth skimming through the last part of his answer.
“Obviously, congratulations to Nikola, I deserved it. He had an incredible season. There is no right or wrong. There were many applicants. It could have gone either way. Giannis, Devin Booker being on the best team in the league by far, so I guess every year it’s all about what you’ve decided, what fits the narrative in terms of who’s going to win. »
Embiid is right that there were a bunch of deserving candidates. It ended up turning into a two-man race between him and Jokic, but Giannis Antetokounmpo could have easily won his third trophy and you could easily argue for Devin Booker as the best player on the best team.
And while it’s never explicitly acknowledged, there’s a storytelling aspect to the award. Team success, player career arcs and past results matter; it’s not strictly a “best player in the league” designation. That’s why LeBron James doesn’t have 10 MVPs and no matter how good Jokic is next season, he has no chance of winning. Ironically, the narrative aspect is why Embiid is likely to win next season as long as he stays healthy.
“But for me, the only thing I will say about these awards is, until I don’t know how to explain it. I go back to what I heard on a podcast. Bill Simmons basically said ‘f— Green Jalen.’ If you allow those kinds of people to vote for those awards, that’s not fair. someone talks like that and has a lot of power. He can influence a lot of other members of the media and you have someone saying that stuff, I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s OK.
This is only somewhat related to the current MVP discussion and seems like a general shot at the media. It’s also worth noting that this specific Simmons joke that keeps being referenced was a (perhaps misguided) joke that was completely taken out of context. But Embiid’s larger point about reward voting issues having financial implications for players is widely shared.
“That’s really the only thing I’ll say about these awards. I’m not angry. The last two years in a row, I’ve put myself in this position. This does not happen. It’s almost like at this point, it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, happens. Last year I campaigned on it, this year I answered questions when asked, and the next, you know, a few years before I retire, it’s almost like I didn’t know what else I had to do to win it. For me, it’s just nonsense. This is — not that I’m not focusing on the big picture, but it’s really time to really put all my energy into the big picture which is to win it all.
Embiid wondering what he needs to do to win MVP is certainly fair, as he was more than served this season. But in truth, he did what he was supposed to do and controlled what he could control. The only thing he did “wrong” was to play well in the same season as two other great historical players.
The most interesting aspect of this quote is Embiid acknowledging how much he had thought about MVP. He may not have been upset with the actual outcome, but it’s clear the whole process weighed on him to some degree. Maybe a weight will be lifted off his shoulders if he can stop caring next season.
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Sixers’ Joel Embiid says he’s not crazy not to be MVP, but doesn’t know what he has to do to win it