Joel Embiid Feb 12, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts after making a basket and getting fouled against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid is not playing against the Denver Nuggets Monday night due to a calf injury. While that’s the reported reason, this continues a streak where the NBA MVP candidate hasn’t played in the “Mile High City” since 2019.

That rubbed Kendrick Perkins the wrong way as the ESPN NBA pundit took issue with Embiid sitting out against the top team in the Western Conference.

Perkins accused Embiid of “ducking that smoke” in terms of going against Jokić and the Nuggets. He pointed out that Embiid “gave Jokić a spanking” when Embiid put up 47 on the Nuggets in Philadelphia this January, and that it was only fair for Jokić to get a chance to respond at his home. Perkins then said, “I have a vote [for MVP]… I’m going to remember this moment.”

Perkins has been very vocal about the MVP race. Nearly four weeks ago, Perkins accused Jokić of stat-padding and claimed there was a racial bias in MVP voting. JJ Redick, in particular, disagreed with that take while many in the basketball and sports media world weighed in.

It might not be the greatest argument, but Perkins makes some good points. It’s true that Embiid hasn’t played in Denver since 2019, and at some point, it’s realistic to speculate if Embiid is trying to avoid a great Nuggets team. This is also a missed opportunity for Embiid to show MVP voters what he could do against a top team. If Embiid wound up having a terrible game, him sitting out might be for the best, but it’s a missed opportunity nonetheless.

That being said, it’s possible this wasn’t Embiid’s choice. This is the 76ers’ seventh away game out of eight games, and their third consecutive away game against a team in the Western Conference. If I was Doc Rivers, and am a couple weeks away from the NBA Playoffs, I’d probably choose this game to rest a couple stars and hope for the best. As a fan, I hate that Embiid is out, denying us all a chance to see two of the best players in the NBA matchup against each other. But if I was the coach, I’m doing what’s best for the team and for the playoffs. After seven away games over 12 days, and the last away game is in high altitude against the Western Conference leader, that’s a logical game to chalk up to a loss and focus on the rest of the season.

There’s also the real possibility that Embiid, along with James Harden, is legit injured and cannot play tonight.

If Perkins still feels like Embiid’s absence affects his MVP vote, he’s got the right to do that. Quite honestly, you can’t go wrong picking Embiid, Jokić, or Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP. Just consider that it’s more than one game that determines the Most Valuable Player.

[Clutch Points]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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