76Ers Waste Another Season Of Embiid's Prime. Will They Ever Make A Run At An Nba Championship?

New York Knicks' Isaiah Hartenstein, right, goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the second half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New York Knicks' Isaiah Hartenstein, right, goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the second half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid gingerly plopped into his seat set to explain yet another season-ending playoff loss, a familiar scene year-after-year for Philadelphia’s oft-injured All-Star center. Embiid, though, wasn’t alone. He usually dissects defeats by himself on the news conference dais. Tyrese Maxey was by his side this time, though — just as the All-Star guard was on the court, just as he’s expected to be for as long as their contracts allow.

Yes, one more empty season is stamped on Embiid’s prime years.

Will his postseason fortunes ever change in Philly?

Maybe the future really will be different this time for the 76ers. After a decade churning through Embiid sidekicks — Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, James Harden and others — the Sixers at last believe they have a perfect partner for Embiid. Maxey’s career skyrocketed this season with his first All-Star berth, the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and a season-extending 46-point effort in a Game 5 win in New York.

Embiid and Maxey. Maxey and Embiid.

It sounds like the dawn of something good in Philly.

Just like it did with Embiid and Simmons. And Embiid and Butler. And ... and, the only guarantee in Philly, no matter the supposed dynamic duo, is a postseason flameout. The Sixers first-round exit against the Knicks made it 41 years since their last NBA championship. The Sixers haven’t even advanced out of the second round since 2001, when Maxey was seven months old.

“I still believe if everything went right, we had a chance,” Embiid said. “But everything didn’t go right.”

The 76ers finished 31-8 in the regular season with Embiid — about a 65-win pace — and a woeful 16-27 without him.

As Embiid goes, so go the Sixers.

He just needs more help and, outside of Maxey, the 76ers were ill-equipped to deliver it for him.

“Every single year it’s always been one person comes in, and the following year they’re gone,” Embiid said. “The same thing just kept happening, kept happening the last few years. This is really the first time where you got him, and obviously, (Maxey’s) taken a step, and he was amazing this year. One of the 10 best players in the world this year. And then you finally get the chance to build around it.”

The summer is set-up as a pivotal one for team president Daryl Morey. The Sixers have the cap space to build a winner around the 30-year-old Embiid, who has two more years and a player option left on his deal. Either way, the 76ers promise to have yet another makeover ahead of next year.


How was it possible for starting forward Tobias Harris to go scoreless in Game 6 — and take only two shots in 29 minutes — in what was all-but guaranteed to be his last game as a Sixer with his five-year, $180-million contract off the books.

Harris, one of the most unpopular Sixers this century, averaged 17 points in the regular season but just nine points in six playoff games. He went scoreless for the Sixers for the first time since he was acquired from the Clippers in February 2019.

“Not really thinking about that, but thanks,” he said, when asked about his potential Philly finale.

Sixers fans are ready to move on — and so are the Sixers.


Harris’ exit would help clear space in the salary cap and give the Sixers about $65 million under the cap to play with this summer. Morey and team ownership haven’t been shy about spending, signing Embiid and Harris to max contracts, for example. Maxey is set to get paid, with a max deal on the table for the restricted free agent. He could get that offer as early as the start of free agency on June 30.

“We have some experience together and so I think that’s the way to go,” Embiid said. “You just have to keep going, keep building around it, and find the right mix of people to make it happen.”


The Sixers were pleased with the play of Kelly Oubre Jr., Kyle Lowry and Nic Batum, and all could be brought back on one-year deals.

But with money to spend, how about a big play at a big free agent? The 76ers toyed with signing LeBron James in the past. How about one more shot to see if he wants to chase a championship with Embiid? Clippers forward Paul George could be a top target. James and George would have to decline player options to hit the market. Sixers coach Nick Nurse won a championship in Toronto with Pascal Siakam and was an assistant coach with the Raptors when DeMar DeRozan was on the team. Both players are free agents and could be a nice fit in Philly.


Embiid was hurt, again. He played on one good leg and through a bout with Bell’s palsy in the postseason. Injuries are just part of the deal with Embiid, who has never even played 70 games in a season. Last season’s NBA MVP, Embiid is set to play this summer for Team USA at the Paris Olympics. While there’s clearly value in playing with a team full of superstars — some who know how to win an NBA championship — do the Sixers really want the 7-footer logging more minutes in the summer when he could be resting, recovering and trying to enter training camp completely healthy?

“I feel like coming back this year, I could have taken more time to heal and get back to myself,” he said. “That’s always been my mindset. I’ve always played through stuff, it’s never been an excuse and it’s not an excuse so, for me for the most part I was healthy.”


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