With the Embiid-Harden duo, the Philadelphia Sixers dream of an NBA title

8.30pm, April 30, 2022

A shock but not a tremor. When the Raptors came back at 3-2 in the series, the chilling idea of ​​being the first to make a comeback after a 3-0 lead must have entered the mind of the Philadelphia Sixers, especially since the American press didn’t fail. to give them a history lesson. And especially for Doc Rivers, the lone coach went out three times in the playoffs after going 3-1. Thursday night, Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto was a promise of cooking; it became a conditioning session (97-132). With Joel Embiid leading (33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks); tenant too, to respond to hostile chants with gestures. And this as the Cameroonian suffers a ligament tear in the wrist, which should only be a reminder in the Eastern Conference semifinal attack against Miami, 2020 finalist.

A patient reconstruction strategy

For him, the horizon is also an individual reward. The pivot (2.13 meters, 28 years old) could match his status as the league’s top scorer (30.6 points) with a trophy for best player. Two already ordained Europeans join him in the debate: Giánnis Antetokoúnmpo, the Milwaukee marsupilami, and Nikola Jokic (Denver), clumsy in the hands of a lace worker.

Embiid proves both sides of the field. He would be MVP. should be called

“For me it is undoubtedly Joe who should be designated as MVP [meilleur joueur de la saison, ndlr] takes on Ian Mahinmi, who had several duels with the person concerned before retiring two years ago. He does everything, proves on both sides of the field: goalscorer in all positions and blocker-bully in defence. His vocal, provocative side, in a sense more American than African, exposes him to criticism. But behind, he assures. †

In its wake, fans are beginning to dream of a return to the big stage, those who haven’t seen the colors in the NBA Finals since 2001. Several legends of the game have nevertheless fueled the history of the franchise, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving (titled in 1983), Charles Barkley or Allen Iverson. But more recently, it’s teamed up with a less flashy concept: The Process. The idea, launched in 2013, was to build the future by accepting that you would lose a lot of matches. In the NBA, mediocrity allows you to be better served when it comes to picking the best prospects in the annual draft. Selected in 3rd position in 2014, Embiid is the expression of this patient reconstruction strategy, he even earned his nickname. Australian Ben Simmons (number one in 2016) was the other big pole. Before coming into conflict with management, he parasitized for the first half of the season and then served as the February bargaining chip on the transaction that led James Harden (Brooklyn) to Pennsylvania.

Harden, a spectacular but double-edged transfer

The arrival of the playmaker, MVP 2018, was seen as the most spectacular transfer of the year. And by Embiid as a solution to thin the defense, so fast to settle his case via double attacks. But it was also a risk. First behind the scenes, because Harden, in addition to an inordinate love for strip clubs, is quick to sulk and diva attitudes. This is evident from the fidgeting: three teams in just over a year. “It doesn’t matter, that’s a thing of the past. I’m happy, healthy and this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”said the 32-year-old bearded man upon his arrival, he who had only one final lost to Oklahoma City in 2012.

If the group has been conceived and developed from the start around the two-headed snake Embiid-Harden, there is something to impress. But you can’t invent or reinvent yourself for the playoffs

In sporting terms, we also see a limit to the immediate ambitions of the Sixers, who gradually have to adapt to a player who likes to have the ball in his hands, less to get them dirty. “And Harden also has to get used to his new team, adds Mahinmi, advisor to the broadcaster BeIN Sports. He carries superstar status, lifestyle, very bubbly feel. If the group has been conceived and developed from the start around the two-headed snake Embiid-Harden, there is something to impress. But you can’t invent or reinvent yourself for the playoffs. Not to mention that these kinds of transfers can destabilize a locker room. It’s a double-edged sword. † For now it holds up.