76ers' Joel Embiid Agrees with Charles Barkley, Shaq Criticism of Aggressiveness

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2019

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid plays during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid said Thursday he's willing to "make a change" after former NBA All-Stars and current TNT analysts Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley argued he doesn't dominate games because of his effort level. 

ESPN's Tim Bontemps noted Barkley said the Sixers star is the "toughest player in the league to match up with" but hasn't elevated himself into the league's elite, while Shaq made a direct appeal to the third overall pick in the 2014 draft: "We're telling you, 'You can be great. You ain't playing hard enough.'"

"Maybe they're right. Maybe. I do think they're right. I think I need to be more aggressive, and just look to impose myself and look to dominate," Embiid said. "I think the whole season I haven't done that, and you can see the way it has affected my efficiency and my stats, so I guess I need to go back to having fun and just dominating."

The 25-year-old two-time All-NBA Second Team selection explained his lack of assertiveness may stem from the increased defensive attention he's received this season, per Bontemps.

"We got a new group. I'm still trying to get used to it," Embiid said. "It's different. It's completely different. The way I'm being guarded this year, every time I touch the ball, heavy double-, triple-teams."

He added: "I'm not a selfish player, I take whatever the defense gives me, if they're going to double-team me all night and I only take two shots, I'll do that, too."

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Embiid is averaging 22 points through 20 appearances during the 2019-20 campaign, a sharp decline from the career-best 27.5 PPG he put up last year. His field goal (18.7 to 15.4) and free throw (10.1 to 8.4) attempts have both dropped.

Although his other numbers have remained solid with averages of 12.4 points, 3.1 assists and 1.4 blocks, he's dropped from sixth last season to 45th this year in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus.

The Sixers are still 18-7, which is fourth in the Eastern Conference and just four games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot.

That said, while Embiid's statistical drop off hasn't led to team-wide struggles, Philly will need him to return to his previously dominant ways if its going to make a serious championship push in 2020.

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