Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers and the daunting task of building around a star

Inside the metalster field At the Citadel campus in Charleston, South Carolina, all eyes are on the conversation between Joel Embiid And the PJ Tucker.

For the second straight day of training camp in late September, the new Philadelphia 76ers engaged in a long — and loud — discussion about basketball tactics. Among the topics of the day: How Tucker and the Miami Heat choked Embiid for office during the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Eastern Conference.

Tucker points out how he confronted Embiid in the paint – he did everything he could to make his life difficult even before he got the ball in his hands – and the ways that Embiid could tackle it.

“every day [we work on] “Ways to combat everything he’s doing,” Tucker said. And I’m guarding him now and trying to help him, and to understand the readings of what people want to do, that’s what it’s all about.

“From knowing it and being prepared for everything.”

Tucker is not alone. Over the past several years, the 76ers have been trying to improve on Embiid’s performance in hopes of gaining deep post-season laps. But each time, flawed roster construction prevented the kind of hack that usually follows a permanent MVP finalist.

There was Embiid partnership doomed in the end Ben Simmonsa point guard whose lack of a reliable jump shot forced the 76ers to build offenses in which pick-and-rolls – the lifeblood of the modern NBA – have been rare occurrences.

There’s been a disastrous pairing all year long with a senior fellow Alhorfordthe player who gave Embiid spells with the Boston Celtics for years and nearly gave him a teammate.

There have been a series of one-way players over the years, from Matisse Thibault And the Seth Carrey by Marco Bellinelli and TJ McConnellwho helped win a lot of games in the regular season but represented the kinds of goals – at one end of the floor or at the other – that the Eastern Conference supplement teams routinely exploited.

This summer, the 76ers were intent on changing that. They have re-signed co-star and elite selection James Harden At a discount big enough to get free proxies Tucker and Danwell House Jr.. , two strong defenders who can drop open three-pointers.

Philly traded injured goalkeeper Danny Green The Memphis Grizzlies’ first-round pick for D. Anthony Meltonadding another high-octane defender to a roster that was lacking last season.

Philadelphia enters its first full season with one of the league’s best pick-and-roll synonyms, high-quality three-point shooting to give Embiid plenty of room to work and versatile defenders to attack opponents.

Put it all together, and the 76 will – despite Tuesday’s rocky first impression – be deeper, more balanced and better built around the 7-foot anchor than at any time in the era of The Process.

“There are no weak links around the century,” Tucker said. “you want to [pick on] Somebody? go ahead. We have everyone.”

Simply break through To the East Finals – a feat the 76ers have not accomplished in over 20 years – means nothing to Embiid.

“The whole idea of ​​getting to the first round, the second round, the conference finals, the finals, doesn’t matter,” Embiid said. “If you don’t win it all, it doesn’t matter why you lost. It might just make it worse… You feel like you’re just wasted time.

Congratulations, you made it to the conference finals. Congratulations, you made it to the finals. “Did you win anything?

Some of those failures can be attributed to Embiid’s early injuries: a colleague’s orbital bone fracture in 2018 and a facial fracture and thumb injuries last spring. The Toronto Raptors can be blamed and one defeat in the playoff Kohi Leonardwho stunned the miraculous four-rebound bell beater in Game 7 77 in the 2019 East Semi Finals.

But much of the burden falls on poor design – specifically, various menu constructions surrounding Embiid: awkward proportions to Simmons or Horford, a buildup of too many limited role players or even the decision to switch from Jimmy Butler After the tragic loss of birds of prey.

No matter what formula Philadelphia tried, the result was the same: an early exit from a playoff. Changing the fit around the Embiid, and thus changing the 76ers’ fortune in a playoff game, head of basketball operations has been Daryl Morey’s job since he was hired by the franchise two years ago.

After collapsing against the Atlanta Hawks in 2021, and a subsequent trade request by Simmons, Morey waited his time before moving to the Simmons-Harden swap in the final hours before the February trade deadline.

It didn’t take long for the two stars to start finding chemistry.

Embiid and Harden ran the second-most hits in the league after the All-Star break, with only the Hawks duo Tra Young And the Clint Capella Which is more. The Philadelphia tandem star averaged 1.15 points per live pick of those plays, according to ESPN’s stats and information research — the fifth-best score out of 39 pairs that played at least 150 of those plays.

Harden’s arrival raised Philadelphia’s roof, but it wasn’t enough on its own to change the Annex’s fate. Harden, who has caught fire in several playoffs, faced his struggles for 76 players, including a smelly 4-for-9 Philadelphia finalist in a Game 6 loss to Miami last season.

Morey identified another problem: The 76ers Rivers coach was hampered by a lot of specialists surrounding his stars.

“[What] “We saw in the qualifiers that we couldn’t play both sides,” Morey said. As when Doc had to go to the bench, the choice was every attack, no defense or all defense, no offense.

“This gets very difficult in qualifying.”

However, it turns out that both Morey and Embiid had a similar solution in mind. Enter Tucker, a 3D multi-use suite that has been part of the Houston Rockets with Morey and Harden for several seasons. After losing his sixth game, Embiid said he had never played with someone like Tucker before, citing his defensive energy and toughness.

Tucker, Milton and House replaced Thibault, shake milton And the Furkan Korkmaz Three players earned important minutes during last year’s playoffs – in Philadelphia.

“I think Joel set the tone very helpful for my negotiations [with Tucker]’ Mori said with a laugh. I’m asking for a specific player… I would ask all 76 players in the future not to do that. “

Echo EMBIID A similar response when referring to the hype surrounding the 76ers’ revamped pre-season roster.

“We have a long way to go.”

Tuesday, as Philadelphia opened its season with a 126-117 loss inside TD Garden against eastern title holders Celtics, Embiid’s cautionary words proved prophetic.

Celtics, playing without injury in the starting position Robert Williams III, beat the 76ers at the speed established by their smaller formations. Boston outperformed Philadelphia by 24-2 on break points – a disparity so stunning that Embiid double-checked on points during his post-game press conference.

“It starts off defensively,” Embiid said. “Really, it’s all about defense. We scored, whatever it was, 117 [points]And we weren’t very good at attacking today.

“We didn’t get any stops all night. So, from here you start. I think we have the potential. But every possession we have to play hard, keep each other’s backs.”

there they were Flashes of optimism for Embiid and Philadelphia. Even with elite defenders, Boston can throw teams – including Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart Harden and Embiid have found success working on Pick-and-Roll.

Late in the second quarter, Harden came around to picking Embiid and dropped a pocket pass that Embiid grabbed and finished off the Celtics striker’s fouling. Noah Fonlet. In another play in the middle of the third road, Harden came around another screen and expertly faked the defense to leave the pontoon wide open.

“We have to find ways to engage in this work more,” Harden said.

Embiid bemoaned the ball sticking too much and the 76ers fell into old habits. He was right: According to Second Spectrum, Philadelphia had an average touchdown length of 3.5 seconds against Boston, the team’s third-highest mark in a game since the start of last season.

However, as ugly as things looked for the Embiid and the 76ers on Tuesday night, he and the Celtics are stars Jason Tatum And the Jaylyn Brown They all have the same message: It was the first of 82 matches.

But while it was the first of 82 battle-tested Celtics champions from the NBA Finals appearance, it was the first regular-season work for Philadelphia’s revamped roster — an experience gap that only time could shrink, Embiid said.

“This is a team that just went to the finals, and they have been together for many years,” Embiid said. “We are still feeling fresh, with a lot of new players trying to find the right look and the right way to play.

“We’ll be fine.”

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