The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven games in a row to climb back into fifth in the East at 23-16, as the Sixers have taken advantage of getting back healthy and a favorable section of their schedule.
During the winning streak, Joel Embiid has continued to be dominant, but the difference between his December dominance (winning Player of the Month despite an 8-6 record) and now is that he’s getting the help he needs from the rest of the team. With Ben Simmons still out and Tobias Harris having an inconsistent season as a shooter and scorer, the Sixers are reliant on some youngsters to step up in a big way. Aside from Seth Curry, who has been the second-best Sixer this season behind Embiid, Philly is asking a lot of Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey in terms of a minutes load.
While Thybulle is best known for his defensive prowess and Maxey is an on-ball driver and creator, with Joel Embiid commanding so much attention inside, anyone on the floor for the Sixers in the backcourt needs to be a willing shooter. In the past month, Embiid has had each of his young guards join him at the podium for postgame interviews and lovingly demanded they take more threes instead of being hesitant — with both obliging on the next night to Embiid’s delight.
After talking trash to Kevin Durant you Gotta love Joel Embiid talking trash to Sixers teammate Tyrese Maxey!
“you see what happens when you freakin’ shoot 3’s? Come on man, shoot the 3!… you were great… that’s how you respond to criticism” @JoelEmbiid loves @TyreseMaxey pic.twitter.com/ae0I4dUe6A
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) December 31, 2021
Here’s @JoelEmbiid trying to implement the magic that worked on @TyreseMaxey last week with Matisse Thybulle tonight.
“I want him to shoot more 3’s. He’s always pump faking. I don’t know why…”
“I said I was sorry.” pic.twitter.com/FAVQay314i
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) January 8, 2022
On Tuesday, Embiid was asked about seeing that response from his young teammates to his very direct leadership style, and it’s clear that he loves that they took his message to heart and didn’t take it personally that he was calling them out to do more.
.@JoelEmbiid on successfully (& publicly) challenging @TyreseMaxey and @MatisseThybulle to shoot more 3’s:
“We’re extremely close. It’s never personal. Sometimes the best way to lead is – you’ve gotta call guys out. I expect them to do the same to me when I’m not doing my job.” pic.twitter.com/gT7l1txynK
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) January 11, 2022
It would be hard to watch this and not think of the pointed critiques Embiid has offered to Ben Simmons in the past, as it really does seem like this is how Embiid wants to challenge all of his teammates to be better. He is bluntly honest at almost all times, about his teammates, opponents, and himself, and this is his way of trying to free his teammates from the worry of missing shots by saying he wants them taking them with confidence every time they get a good look. It is both uplifting and a bit selfish, as Embiid notes he needs them to play like that to open space up for himself and for the betterment of the team, but it does have to be a bit freeing to know that your dominant center isn’t going to be mad you’re firing an open three because he’s demanding that you do it.