NBA

Embiid's reaction as MVP debate takes a twist: 'I don't care, I'm trying to win a championship'

By Sports Desk March 30, 2023

Joel Embiid believes it would be a nonsense if his MVP hopes are affected by him missing this week's big showdown with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Embiid is leading the way in the NBA with a 33.2-point scoring average per game, beating last season's career high of 30.6.

He is also averaging a healthy 10.2 rebounds, albeit that is his lowest season mark since 2016-17.

However, Embiid sat out Monday's clash with the Nuggets due a calf injury, and Jokic led Denver to a 116-111 victory, scoring 25 points alongside 17 rebounds and 12 assists.

The triple-double made Jokic just the third player in NBA history to produce 10 games of at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in the same season, sparking debate over whether it could be a key moment in the MVP race.

After that game, Jokic said the absent Embiid would be "remembered as one of the most dominant players in the league".

Whether Embiid can deny Jokic a third straight MVP award remains to be seen, and recency bias may help to tilt it the way of the Nuggets star, who is averaging 24.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists.

Embiid's message was a simple one – "I don't care" – as he prioritises team success over individual glory.

The Nuggets head the Western Conference, with Philadelphia third in the East, so both main contenders for the MVP have done a lot of winning this season and will hope to do plenty more in the playoffs.

Embiid said: "If one game is going to hurt anybody's chances, then I guess everybody should be out of it. We all have bad games. Guys miss matchups.

"That's not the first time, and it's not really a matchup about me and Nikola. He's a great player, amazing player. He's one of the best players in the league, and I'm a huge fan.

"So not playing against him was a huge bummer. But there's a bigger goal in sight, and that's to make sure we're healthy for the playoffs."

Embiid had a standout game against the Nuggets on January 28, outshining Jokic with 47 points and 18 rebounds in a Sixers win, so he is adamant there was no desire to duck another clash with Denver's talisman.

He added on Wednesday, after returning to score 25 points in Philadelphia's 116-108 win over the Dallas Mavericks: "I've got nothing to prove. The last matchup, we won, and I had whatever I had.

"To go out there and say that I'm scared after what I did the last time is kind of stupid. But, like I said, I don't care if I win it or not. I'm just focused on trying to win a championship, and whatever happens, happens."

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers supported Embiid's stance, saying ahead of Wednesday's game: "Joel's body of work speaks for itself. You're not judged for one game. You're judged for the entire season of work and your team's record and how you perform, and he's been dominant all year."

Looking at whether missing out last time out could harm Embiid's MVP prospects, Rivers said it might have an impact, but he is baffled as to why that would be the case.

"Will that hurt him? I doubt it. But it could," Rivers said. "I don't know what people use for criteria. It seems like it changes weekly, what the real criteria is.

"Before, it was a bunch of numbers. Now, it's wins. I'm like, 'Well, it wasn't wins last year'. You know what I’m saying? It just feels like, every year, it keeps changing."

Jokic took MVP honours last season when the Nuggets finished sixth in the Western Conference.

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