By now, most of the basketball universe is aware that Joel Embiid voiced his displeasure with the way he’s being utilized by the 76ers.
Embiid didn’t play in Friday’s 117-111 victory over the Pistons in Detroit because the team was “resting him.” It was a game in which Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 38 points — for the second straight game — with 26 points coming in the second half. Coach Brett Brown called it the best win of the season under the circumstances.
But at 5:45 p.m. – an hour, 15 minutes before game time – Embiid said his recent struggles had more to do with his new role as opposed to being tired. Some interpreted the 76ers All-Star center’s statement as if he’s unhappy with the addition of Butler, a four-time All-Star. That’s not true. It’s actually far from it. Embiid knows that Butler is the third star the team needs to pair with him and Ben Simmons.
He did convey he is indeed unhappy with his role, a role that has changed since the Sixers (18-9) acquired Butler via a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves back on Nov. 12.
But it must be emphasized that this is not an Embiid vs. Butler problem. It’s a Brett Brown problem. The Sixers coach must find a way to keep both of his All-Stars engaged, and all signs point to that not becoming an issue. That’s because Butler enjoys playing with Embiid, and actually defers to him. The two get along well and Butler is unfazed by Embiid’s displeasure. There is not an issue with it today. One gets a sense there won’t be an issue any time soon — if at all.