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On the NBA Beat Ep. 2.5: Jake Fischer: 76ers’ Joel Embiid Is the “Pillar This Team Needed”

Four games into the season, the Philadelphia 76ers are again winless, and the franchise hasn’t won a pre-December regular-season game since the 2013-14 season. This time, however, Sixers fans are enjoying the process marveling at Joel “The Process” Embiid rather than commiserating about tanking. Jake Fischer of  SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers and SI.com joins the show and raves about Embiid’s impressive debut and transformative potential. Along with 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, whose highly anticipated debut will have to wait, last season’s NBA All-Rookie First Team member Jahlil Okafor and rookie Dario Saric, Embiid’s emergence brings optimism back to Philadelphia basketball. Fischer also examines the Sixers’ glut of similar bigs and identifies the likely odd man out. Not since Iverson and Iguodala respectively crossed over opponents and soared through the sky has there been so much unbridled joy and passion around this fan base. Peep the excerpts below:

1:59-2:23 Fischer starts out describing the aforementioned new aura of positivity around the 76ers faithful“It’s a complete 180 from the last couple years. There’s still the good-hearted humor of ‘Oh, I wonder which new way we’ll find out this team can lose a game tonight,’ but at the same time there’s an optimism now I think that fans truly have thought, at least in these first four games, that the team has a shot at winning every night just because Embiid’s out on the floor.”    

5:52-6:31 “One of the biggest criticisms of Sam Hinkie’s rebuild was that he was just plugging away with assets and roster turnover and hiding behind a calculator and it was not basketball-related and it was just faux analytics. But the fact that this team now has a personable face who can stand in front of reporters or fans at the Beach Bash in August and actually be a walking, talking, breathing product of this scheme, and you compound that with the fact that he’s absurdly talented. It’s the pillar this team needed to pivot toward true contention, let alone respectability.”

7:30-8:37: But apparently all is not is well in the City of Brotherly Love according to our guest, who does not envision Nerlens Noel remaining a 76er for long: “I honestly don’t expect him to ever play a game for the Sixers again…I don’t know what flipped the switch, but some time in August him and his agents decided that he needed to get out of there. I think that’s gonna be the ultimate conclusion as much as I think that he’s a more valuable piece next to Joel Embiid, and just he’s a better basketball player than Jahlil Okafor in general.”   

18:23-18:47: Fischer points to the evident shift toward finally accruing some wins this season compared to the previous brand of old-fashioned tanking: “They literally entered that year [2015-16] without a point guard, so that was by design. Brett Brown and his players, like you said, were always going to try to win, but Sam Hinkie strategically built the roster in a way that it was virtually impossible to win every single night. That’s not the case anymore. And that’s not an indictment of Hinkie at all. I personally think it was an ingenious strategy.”

23:00-23:27: Given this enhanced on-court product, he sees a prime opportunity for coach Brett Brown to showcase his ability to game plan in more competitive situations: “I think he has the tools to grow into possibly one of the best coaches in the league. He certainly is a leader of men. You see it in the way he talks and his charisma and the way players play for him defensively. He’s got that quality about him, but so did Scott Brooks and Mark Jackson and other guys, and they just didn’t have the acumen to get it done. So when it comes to those late-game situations…I really am paying attention to that.”     

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod

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