Sixers star Joel Embiid was listed as questionable last night for Phliadelphia’s showdown in Indianapolis against the Pacers. After six minutes and three missed field goals, Embiid exited the game, and it looked like he didn’t have much chance of being effective thanks to his ailing back.
Of course, he’d end up returning, making 9-16 from the floor the rest of the way, putting up 22 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks in 35 minutes as the Sixers housed Indiana 120-96 to pull into third in the East. TNT analyst Charles Barkley, though, spent halftime railing against Philadelphia’s decision to play Embiid.
Video and transcript via Deadspin:
“Let me just say this about the Philadelphia 76ers: they’ve got to be the stupidest organization in the history of sports. You’ve got a franchise player who’s got a bad back, who’s injury-prone. He can barely walk and you’ve got him out there playing in a regular season game. You have to be the stupidest organization…”
“You gave the guy $150 million. He’s got a bad back. He’s clearly laboring. Why would you play him?”
Embiid ended up scoring 13 points in the second half as the Sixers extended their four-point halftime lead, so it’s not like he wasn’t effective. But he was clearly playing through pain, and acknowledged such after the game:
Hear from Joel Embiid after his near triple-double & Sixers win!
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 18, 2019
Barkley’s candor here is, as per usual, refreshing. (And doubly hilarious since he spent the first eight seasons of his career playing for Philadelphia.)
It’s nuanced hyperbole, if that’s something that can really exist, because while his criticism is clearly over the top, Barkley is looking at the big picture and not settling for cliches like Shaq’s “You walk on that court you play.”
Embiid played well, yes, but he still played hurt, and if it in any way contributes to a longer absence going forward, it’s hard to see how one game in January would be worth that for the Sixers. Hopefully it ends up a moot point, but it’s one very few studio analysts would be willing or able to make in a similar situation.