The 76ers are on pace to win 58 games with the majority of the roster underperforming. Joel Embiid has been a god-sent for the Sixers this season. Embiid now has the second best odds to win NBA’s most valuable player award but he should probably be the first.

The Sixers star was yet again named Eastern Conference player of the week this week. On the season he has averaged 29 points per game in 33 minutes played per game, both as it stands would be career highs. The difference in Joel Embiid this season as compared to previous seasons is his ability to stay on the floor.

In past seasons, it wouldn’t be uncommon for Embiid to miss consecutive games due to nagging injuries. He’s missed time with knee issues, back tweaks, and hyper extensions. What else would you expect from a 7’2” 280 lb Center with the athletic ability that he has? Embiid seems to deal with a nagging injury from the beginning of the season all the way to the last game but not this year.

After a lot of controversy, Embiid opted not to have surgery to repair the partially torn MCL that he managed to play through last postseason. He decided to try physical therapy during the offseason but came into the season still hampered by it. He didn’t look like himself as he lumbered up and down the court. Everyone was just waiting for the breaking point where Embiid had to be shut down for weeks or worse yet, get the surgery to fix it.

The breaking point came in the form of a virus that shut the entire country down. Embiid caught Covid and missed over three weeks. While catching Covid is certainly no joke, it came at the perfect time. It gave the Sixers star time to rest his wounded knee and since his return in late November, it hasn’t been an issue that we know of.

Since his return from Covid, he has been a new player. No longer bothered by his knee Embiid has skyrocketed in MVP odds and has almost single handedly carried the Sixers to third place in the Eastern Conference. In a season that looked to be a lost cause, it was Joel Embiid who rose above and brought the Sixers back from the grave.

While there is still controversy surrounding the team mainly because of the Ben Simmons situation, Joel Embiid has managed to not only carry the team on his back but lead them. In the early stages of Embiid’s career, the talent was there but it was the mindset that was lacking. He would spend his time picking fights on Twitter, dancing on stage with Meek Mill while injured, and really just enjoying his early 20’s. Embiid came into the league so young, it’s not uncommon to see immaturity in someone that age.

As the years have gone by, Embiid and the Sixers have lost in the first or second round four times and it’s taken its toll. Now 27 years old, Embiid is a father and seems to be fully committed to being the best he can be. He has spoken on multiple occasions about his desire to win, specifically in Philadelphia. Taking the game seriously is no longer a struggle for him and that can be seen every night that he takes the floor.

Embiid no longer strives for greatness, he expects it. In a national game against the Lakers, Embiid apologized in a postgame interview with the TNT crew for turning in a 26 point, 7 assist, 9 rebound performance in a game where he was doubled and even triple teamed at times. The TNT crew highlighted by former Sixer Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal used to rip into Joel Embiid for his careless antics and the way he played the game. Embiid has taken their advice and they praised him for it after the game.

Embiid no longer walks through pre-game warmups with a smile on his face, he is serious now. He is committed to making himself and everyone on the floor with him better, something that the 20 year old out of Kansas wasn’t used to. Adversity has shaped Joel Embiid for the better and now he is everything you want and more in your franchise player.


Photo via Getty Images Mitchell Leff

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