Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid is flying high this season, emerging as a clear frontrunner for MVP alongside Nikola Jokic. Even more impressive, he's done it all through the Ben Simmons drama, which surrounded the Sixers all season long until he was finally traded off to the Brooklyn Nets in March for James Harden.
Embiid recently spoke out on how he emerged as more of a leader on and off the court due to Simmons' absence.
It was a tough situation to navigate and go through (with Simmons). Even to this day, I don’t have any hard feelings towards everything that happened. But being in my position, having to answer questions about that whole thing every single day, it was kind of draining. And I’m sure it was draining for my Sixers teammates. So the drama was pretty crazy, but my whole thing going into the season was to come in and try to be a better leader. In the past, I was trying to lead on the court, by my play, and I was never really focused on off the court and what I could bring to the table.
So, you know, I knew the situation we were in, and I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I had to make sure that I brought it off the court and on the court. On the court, just try to play at an even higher level than I did last year. The knock on me was last year that I wasn’t healthy enough. So to come back, take another step (with his play), and then also stay on the floor for the Sixers, that was a big goal for me. When you look at this year, sure it looks like I missed, what, 12 games or whatever. But nine of them were due to COVID and all that stuff. So I’m really happy, and I’m excited for myself.
Embiid has undoubtedly elevated his play and stayed relatively healthy. He's essentially carried the Sixers in 2021-22 but now with a legitimate running mate in Harden, the big man has the help to hopefully take Philly to championship heights.
He does have a point, though. Throughout the entire Simmons saga, questions were being fired left and right at Embiid regarding his relationship with the 25-year-old. But as he said, there are no hard feelings. Both players are in a better position without each other now, while Joel Embiid has developed into a much better leader for this Sixers squad.