Joel Embiid has had to carry a massive load this season. With the cloud of the Ben Simmons trade saga hovering over his Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the season, how things would play out throughout the drama was a huge question mark that needed to be answered.

But even with Ben Simmons not playing a single game for the Sixers all the way up to the NBA trade deadline, they somehow stayed not just afloat, but among the Eastern Conference elite as one of the top seeds. Joel Embiid has played like an MVP frontrunner all season – and it took a conscious decision to play his heart out despite the absence of his former running mate in Ben Simmons.

The Sixers star spoke candidly in a revealing piece from Melissa Rohlin of FOX Sports.

Via FOX Sports:

When it started to become clear that the Ben Simmons spiral was irreversible, and he’d never play another game for the Philadelphia 76ers, Embiid took a long, hard look in the mirror.

“I just felt like, what are we waiting for?” Embiid told FOX Sports. “Obviously, that’s a big hole that we were missing. But I get paid to deliver. It doesn’t matter who is playing or not. If I don’t deliver on the court, fans are going to be mad. The front office, they’re not going to be happy. So it doesn’t matter whatever situation I’m in — I still got to go out there and deliver. I just looked at it like, I’ve just got to go out there and actually do it and prove it.”

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Joel Embiid didn’t let the outside noise creep into his head. His Sixers needed him to deliver no matter the circumstance and despite the “frustrating” turn of events with Ben Simmons, it became a challenge rather than a hindrance to what has been a sterling season for the Sixers big man.

“It was extremely frustrating,” he said. “It was hard to deal with, but as a competitor, I also like the challenge that was presented in front of me to just go out and see if I could do it, see if I could play extremely well.”

Extremely well is right. Joel Embiid is averaging 30.2 points per game, one of just three others eclipsing the 30-point plateau, to go along with 11.6 points and 4.2 assists. He’s also taking an absurd 11.8 free throw attempts per game, which leads the entire NBA. Embiid has truly been an unstoppable force for the Sixers and part of that has admittedly been fueld by the absence, then eventual departure of one Benjamin David Simmons.

Now with James Harden entering the fray, Philadelphia is one of the biggest threats to come out of the East. They also have a fairly stout supporting cast with veterans like Tobias Harris and Danny Green alongside young contributors like Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. But the Sixers are only going as far as their biggest star’ broad shoulders can carry them. That’s exactly how Joel Embiid wants it to be.