The Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated on Thursday night by the Miami Heat. They lost 99-90. Friday has been a day of postmortems and wondering what happened. Perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid logged 20 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes. Former MVP James Harden played 43 minutes and scored 11 points while taking only nine shots. If you're wondering where I'm going with this, you would be right to assume the predictable. James Harden is not the guy.
Joel Embiid Speaks Honestly
Embiid has always been a candid speaker with the media and last night was no exception. He was blunt about what the 76ers did not get from James Harden.
"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," Embiid said. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench. And I'm not just talking about offensively. I'm talking about, you know, as a whole offensively and defensively. I didn't think we were good defensively as a team. They took advantage of a lot of stuff that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively just really everybody being on the same page, obviously, only having probably what, three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn't a lot of time. ... I don't think we played our best basketball."
It's easy to read into Embiid's statement, and frankly, I choose to because Harden has been bad. In an elimination game, you play aggressively unless your arms are falling off. Where was James Harden? Was his mind already in the gentleman's clubs he's known for frequenting?
For the second time in just over a year, Harden was traded to a big-market team that was supposed to put them into contention with his addition. For the second time in a row, the team that acquired Harden was bounced in the second round. Harden took only two shots in the second half, and only one in the fourth quarter. He missed both of those shots. After the game, Harden's excuse was pathetic.
"We ran our offense, and the ball didn't get back to me."
The ball 'didn't get back to you?' Is this the guy that was being compared to Kobe Bryant just a few seasons ago? What an insult to the Black Mamba that is. If you're a team leader, an MVP candidate, or even just "the man," you demand that damn basketball. This is a lame excuse from a player who continues to show that his most elite basketball was largely a product of drawing contact on fouls he didn't deserve. Ever since the NBA changed the rules around drawing fouls, if Harden's shots from outside weren't dropping—he wasn't scoring.
All this makes it easy to forget that Harden is a liability defensively. He let Heat wings get almost whatever shots they wanted, and he was sluggish at getting back in transition. Call it being lazy, overrated, or whatever. I don't ever want anyone comparing James Harden to Kobe Bryant or any other elite shooting guards. Until he does something big in an elimination game, he shouldn't be whispered with those guys.