PHILADELPHIA -- Fresh off of dominating reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to the tune of 47 points, 18 rebounds and five assists in Philadelphia's 126-119 comeback victory on Saturday afternoon, 76ers center Joel Embiid expressed his feelings regarding not being voted as a starter for the All-Star game this season.
Embiid was selected as a starter in each of the previous five seasons, but didn't make the cut this season as he came in fourth in frontcourt voting in the Eastern Conference behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. Embiid is widely considered as the biggest starter snub. But, while the big man felt slighted, the news didn't come as a shock.
"Having been a starter the last five years, it is kind of disrespectful. I don't think anybody has had a better year than me," Embiid said to media members. "... I was not surprised. I think it's well documented that I'm not well-liked and that's cool. I don't know if it's because I troll a lot or that I guess I'm an asshole, but it's cool. I keep being me. I keep being an asshole and I keep trolling and if people don't like it, that's their problem."
As a two-time MVP runner-up who feels like he should have won the award at least once, Embiid has grown accustomed to slights -- actual or perceived. This season, he's trying to use them to fuel team success for the Sixers.
"I'm used to it. It's not the first time," Embiid said. "I think it's more of a motivation to go out and try to win the whole thing. I guess that's the only way I'm probably gonna get that respect. I think we got a pretty good chance. You play the best team in the West down 15 points or something like that and to come back and to be able to win the game, that gives us a lot of confidence."
There's obviously still a whole lot of ball left to play this season, but there's good reason for Sixers to feel confident after their victory over Denver. They've now won seven straight games and 20 out of their last 24, and climbed all the way up to second in the Eastern Conference. Embiid is playing probably the best ball of his career, James Harden is also performing at a near-elite level and Tyrese Maxey is embracing his newfound role as a bucket-getter off of the bench. Plus, they're deeper than they have been in recent seasons. As long as the team can stay healthy down the stretch, they'll have a chance to make a real run.
When it comes to the All-Star game, the fact that Embiid -- the NBA's leading scorer and a top MVP candidate -- isn't starting speaks loudly to the fact that the voting system is fundamentally flawed. As the game has grown increasingly positionless, the voting process should follow suit. The top five players in each conference should start, regardless of position.
Embiid swore the starting snub didn't provide him with any added motivation in the matchup with the guy who bested him in MVP voting the past two seasons, but after the way his star center played on Saturday, Sixers coach Doc Rivers had a request for the basketball world.
"Let's keep offending Joel by fining him and not putting him on the All-Star starters," Rivers said.