The trade deadline has passed, but the NBA drama is still going strong.
Joel Embiid posted a photo of himself on Instagram Monday shushing a sometimes-booing home crowd after he hit a big shot in the 76ers’ 118-111 win over the Bulls.
“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” Embiid captioned the photo.
It has been a trying season for the 33-21 76ers seemingly unable to step up and become the primary challenger to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference, as many expected them to do. Questions continue to circulate about whether he and star point guard Ben Simmons complement each other’s skills.
Jimmy Butler, who fled the 76ers for the Heat this offseason, chimed in quickly.
“I know a place where villains are welcome,” the demanding forward wrote.
“Damn right my brother,” Embiid responded.
It was nearly a year ago that Butler, Embiid and Simmons pushed the eventual-champion Raptors to a tense seven-game series in the Eastern Conference semifinals that Kawhi Leonard won with a last-second Game 7 buzzer beater for Toronto. Now, Butler has the Heat a surprising 35-18 and ahead of Philadelphia in the standings.
It won’t be easy prying the 25-year-old Embiid, who has three years and $93 million left on his contract after this season, out of Philadelphia. But according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Embiid’s trade availability is currently a popular topic in league circles.
“One of the conversations people are starting to have in the league is ‘will they move Embiid? What’s the price? Where would he go?'” Windhorst said on his podcast Monday.
“I’m not going to get into that, but my point is people are talking about that. I don’t think they would do that without making an adjustment to the head coach. It’s such a radical thing, but the fact that we’re in mid-February and the people who work in the league, who have to prepare in advance, are mulling over Joel Embiid potentially coming to market, whether that’s true or not …”
Embiid did calm the controversy somewhat by tweeting later Monday night: “Made for this… If I can take it then you can too. PHILA TOUGH!!! #AllLove”
We’ll see where the love meter stands after the season when teams can make a trade run at Embiid again.