Moving Dangerously Close to Fumbling MVP Race, Joel Embiid’s Greater Plans Revealed After Ducking Nikola Jokic Battle

Published 01/27/2024, 7:52 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Tonight’s Denver Nuggets vs Philadelphia 76ers was a much-awaited game. The league’s dominant big men are squaring off against each other ahead of the MVP race. The last time the Nuggets arrived in Philly, it was to a cold welcome.

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While it might not be the case for Joel Embiid and Co. as they visit Colorado, there is no doubt that Nikola Jokić is going to go easy as he takes the floor. Interestingly enough, Embiid reveals his honest plans, and his eyes are on the ultimate prize. That includes a ring. According to Woj, the 7-foot center wants to stay healthy for the playoffs. ” If that means taking him out of MVP, he is ok with that.” Since he’s already become an MVP, all he wants now is a championship!

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This came in the wake of a shocking injury update on the 2023 MVP ahead of the highly anticipated matchup. Just minutes before the game, Wojnarowski had tweeted that Joel Embiid wouldn’t be playing against the Nuggets. Starting in his stead was Paul Reed.

Even before the shocking announcement about Embiid’s unavailability, ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins had called the 7x All-Star for “ducking the smoke”. He promptly posted the clip on his X account while tagging Joel.

Although this might seem a tad bit over the top, especially after the 70-point game, “Big Perk” is on point with missing face-off in Denver. The last time Embiid took the floor in the Ball Arena (known then as Pepsi Arena) was on November 8, 2019. The Nuggets won that time (100-97). Since then, a mix of COVID protocols and injuries left the 2x scoring champion sidelined during further games in Colorado.

And yet, it hasn’t diminished Embiid being a favorite for this year’s MVP. But that might not be enough this time around.

Joel Embiid’s rival in the MVP race might not be Jokic after all

The betting odds show a rise in favor of Joel Embiid after his brilliant performance against the Spurs. His points per game this season increased to 36.0 in the aftermath. Tonight’s matchup could have been an added incentive, but the game-time decision deemed him unavailable. But these factors don’t do much if Embiid cannot stay healthy.

As reported by ESPN (told by BetMGM senior trader Halvor Egeland), “Joel Embiid’s main competition for NBA MVP at this point in the season is playing 65 games.” Prior to the 2023-24 season, the NBA had instilled a new rule that deemed a player eligible for a major individual award or an All-NBA Team only if he played a minimum of 65 games.

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“Haven’t Been Feeling Too Well”: Joel Embiid Provides Worrisome Update on His Health After Enduring Crushing Defeat vs the Pacers

Embiid, who has an injury-prone history, has remained largely healthy this season. And while his performances, when he is on-court, have been nothing short of spectacular, the technical difficulties might very well be a stumbling block to his back-to-back MVP title hopes.

USA Today via Reuters

Then again, Joel made it quite clear that he was willing to sacrifice being the MVP if he can stay healthy come playoff time. The ring matters more to the 29-year-old Cameroon native right now!

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Watch This Story: “It’s Scary, but…”: Self-Confident Joel Embiid Gives Honest Take On Crunch Time Brilliance vs OKC

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Written by:

Geisha Pulimoottil Don

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“Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball” - Jackson had a simple philosophy when he was coaching the Lakers. He wanted everyone to succeed and grow in the service of something bigger than themselves. This is what struck me the most.
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Edited by:

Sameen Nawathe

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