Once again, Joel Embiid was the target of criticism from Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and just about everyone else TNT gave a microphone to Thursday night.
Embiid, wearing a splint on his left hand following surgery to repair a torn tendon, struggled on the court and appeared out of sorts in the Sixers’ 112-101 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. “He isn’t getting the results that he usually gets on the shots that he usually takes,” wrote my colleague David Murphy, “and the resulting frustration is the sort of thing that can bleed into every aspect of a player’s game.”
“I shoot the ball the way I do,” Embiid told reporters following the game. “Tonight, I missed a lot of wide-open looks... So it’s just on to the next one. Some nights you make some. Some night you don’t.”
During halftime, Shaq blasted Embiid’s first-half struggles against Giannis Antetokounmpo, saying the Sixers star was playing soft with “a capital T-T-T-T-T.” Shaq also referenced recent comments made by Embiid, in which he criticized the team’s offensive approach under head coach Brett Brown.
“When you go 1 for 10, it ain’t your coach’s fault, it ain’t your teammates’ fault, it’s your fault, period,” Shaq said.
Barkley also called the Sixers soft, comparing the squad to the outspoken underachievers on the 6-10 Cleveland Browns.
“I picked the Sixers to get to the finals. I think they are the softest, mentally weakest team that had a bunch of talent,” Barkley said. “They are the Cleveland Browns of the NBA. They got a lot of talent, and they talk the talk, and that’s it."
Even Reggie Miller, the former Indiana Pacers star turned TNT analyst who was calling the Sixers-Bucks game alongside Kevin Harlan, called out Embiid’s sluggish body language and apparent lack of interest in the game.
“He needs to be by the coaches or in the middle of the bench. He’s your best player,” Miller said. “Even though he’s not saying anything, the body language to the rest of the team… you can’t have that. You’re best player has to be engaged.”
“A lot of people owe Jimmy Butler an apology. They thought he was the problem," Miller said later in the broadcast.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Embiid and the Sixers have been the targets of criticism from the TNT crew. Back in December, both Barkley and Shaq called out Embiid for not playing hard enough, comments that appeared to momentarily motivate the Sixers star. And last spring, the duo criticized his toughness during the Sixers’ playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, where Embiid was hindered by a cold.