For the second year in a row, Joel Embiid fell short in the pursuit of his first MVP award. The 76ers The star center reportedly finished as runner-up to Nuggets big man Nikola Jokić, who became the 13th. player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The league is expected to make a formal announcement later this week.
Though disappointed, Embiid told reporters Tuesday that he wasn’t surprised to see Wojnarowski’s report on the results. He acknowledged that a handful of players would have been deserving of the award and there was no “right or wrong” answer.
“I mean, this is something that I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN did its] straw poll or whatever,” Embiid said after Philadelphia’s 120–85 loss to Miami in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. “I just knew it wasn’t going to happen.
“Obviously, congratulations to Nikola. She deserved it. He had an amazing season. There is no right or wrong. There were many candidates. It could have been for anyone. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league, by far. So, I guess, every year it’s all about what you guys decide, what fits the narrative as to who’s going to win.”
Embiid was one of three finalists for this year’s award after putting together one of the best seasons of his career. He averaged a league-best 30.6 points per game, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists while playing a career-high 68 games.
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“I’m not mad,” Embiid said of not winning the MVP. “It’s two years in a row that I put myself in that position. It didn’t happen. It’s almost like, at this point, it’s whatever. What happens, happens.
“Last year I campaigned on it. This year I answered questions when they were asked, and the next few years until I retire, it’s almost like… I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know what else I have to do to win it. For me, at this point it is whatever. It’s about focus, not that I haven’t focused on the big picture, but I’m really trying to put all my energy into the big picture, which is to win everything.”
Embiid’s hopes of claiming his first NBA championship took a hit Tuesday night when the Sixers looked completely outmatched by the Heat. The 28-year-old center, who suffers from an orbital fracture, scored only 17 points and registered the worst game of the game: minus 29 in 33 minutes played.
The loss puts Philadelphia, now down 3-2, on the brink of elimination before the conference finals for the fifth straight season. Embiid and the Sixers will have to avoid the Heat at home in Game 6 on Thursday if they want to keep their title hopes alive.
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