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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Sixers Notebook: Embiid frustrated by role

Posted by Eric Fisher On December 12

When the 76ers acquired Jimmy Butler, there were questions about whether Butler, who reportedly had difficulty getting along with younger teammates with two previous teams, would be able to fit in with young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

As it turns out, Butler isn’t the one who has had difficulty adjusting. Simmons appeared to take a few games to figure out how he fits in with the offense. But the more difficult adjustment, judging by his public comments this past week, has been for Embiid.

After three sub-par games – at least by his standards – Embiid, who looked sluggish during a loss to the Raptors, was given a night off Friday against the Pistons. Embiid, however, insisted his body wasn’t tired. Instead, he said the lack of production is connected to the way he was being used.

“I haven’t been myself lately,” Embiid said. “I think it’s mainly because of the way I’ve been used, which is I’m being used as a spacer, I guess, a stretch five, which I’m only shooting (29) percent” from three-point range.

“But it seems like the past couple games, like with the way I play, our setup, (Brett Brown) always has me starting on the perimeter … and it just really frustrates me. My body feels great, and it’s just I haven’t been playing well.”

Let’s not overstate Embiid’s happiness. This isn’t the beginning of a feud with Butler. But it also shouldn’t be ignored that Embiid is complaining about the way head coach Brett Brown is using him. That is a problem that could fester if it’s not addressed.

Brown will never say it, but he can’t be happy about Embiid, who may be honest to a fault when speaking with the media, airing his grievance in public. And he also can’t be happy about being named as the source of Embiid’s problem.

The problem is Brown’s to figure out. He has to incorporate Butler into the offense without putting Embiid into a role in which he feels uncomfortable.

Make no mistake about it. Embiid is the star of the franchise. If push came to shove between Embiid and Brown – and it doesn’t appear we’re anywhere close to that level right now – there’s no question which one the organization would favor.

With Butler leaving Monday’s win over the Raptors in the first quarter with a groin injury, Brown has a bit of an unwanted reprieve. Embiid can return to his customary role in the offense, spending more time posting up down low.

Make no mistake about it, though. Brown needs to figure out how to keep Embiid satisfied with his role without compromising Butler’s effectiveness.

*****

FULTZ DRAMA: The latest twist in the bizarre Markelle Fultz saga is that the second-year guard received a diagnosis for his ongoing shoulder issues. Fultz was diagnosed with Thoracic outlet syndrome, according to a statement released by the Sixers. This condition is related to nerves that control movements in the shoulder, arm and hand.

The diagnosis does little to silence the speculation around Fultz. It appears that Fultz saw specialist after specialist until he found one that could find a physical reason for his on-court struggles. On the other hand, maybe Fultz didn’t find one who was certain enough of the diagnosis to take credit for it. The release from the Sixers didn’t include the name of the doctor who made the diagnosis, which is unusual. Another odd element to this situation is that, according to his agent, Raymond Brothers, Fultz is beginning his physical therapy in Los Angeles.

The Sixers and Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, seem to be drifting apart. Fultz is still young, but it’s difficult to believe this relationship can continue in its current direction for too much longer.

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RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: With all of the drama surrounding the Sixers, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the Sixers are 19-9 (entering Wednesday’s game against the Nets), the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. That record is identical to the Warriors’ record. Furthermore, the Sixers are 14-1 at home, with their only loss coming, somehow, against the Cavaliers, who have won only one other road game.

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MAKING HIS POINT: With Jimmy Butler leaving Monday’s win over the Pistons due to a groin injury, Furkan Korkmaz came off the bench to score 18 points. Korkmaz has reportedly been unhappy with his lack of playing time, which comes on the heels of the Sixers not extending his contract when they had the opportunity. If Korkmaz scores in the vicinity of 18 points one or two more times, the Sixers won’t have much choice other than to try to re-sign Korkmaz.

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DISTANCE TO THE TOP: The acquisition of Jimmy Butler was an acknowledgement that the Sixers weren’t good enough to compete on equal footing with the Raptors and, possibly, the Bucks and Celtics for Eastern Conference supremacy. If last Wednesday’s game against the Raptors is an accurate barometer, the Sixers still have some ground to cover to catch Toronto. The Raptors handed the Sixers a 113-102 defeat that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.

The Sixers will face the Raptors and Celtics in consecutive games later this month. They will host the Raptors on Dec. 22 and then travel to Boston for a game on Christmas.

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38 SPECIAL: Jimmy Butler scored 38 points in consecutive games, a 113-102 loss to the Raptors and a 117-111 win over the Pistons (the game Joel Embiid sat out).

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BLOCK PARTY: Even without Joel Embiid in the lineup, the Sixers blocked 12 shots during Friday’s 117-111 victory over the Pistons. The Sixers overtook the Pistons during the fourth quarter, thanks to terrific defense.

                            *****                               

CELTICS REBOUND: After dropping to .500, the Celtics have reeled off six straight wins (through Tuesday’s games) and look more like last season’s Eastern Conference champion than they did for the first quarter of the season.

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LOOKAHEAD: After Wednesday’s game against the Nets, the Sixers will host the Pacers on Friday (7:30 p.m.) before hitting the road for games Sunday (3:30 p.m.) in Cleveland and Monday (8:30 p.m.) in San Antonio.

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