Georges Niang defends Sixers stars Joel Embiid, James Harden from critics

Miercoles 08 de Junio del 2022

Georges Niang defends Sixers stars Joel Embiid, James Harden from critics

Georges Niang defends Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and James Harden from the criticism they have received.

Georges Niang defends Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and James Harden from the criticism they have received.

After the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated in Round 2 of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, the criticism came out again for star players Joel Embiid and James Harden. This was the fourth time in five seasons that Embiid and the Sixers were eliminated in the East semifinals and questions arose about whether he can lead a team in the playoffs.

Then, there was Harden who once again had a weirdly passive game in a big moment. The Beard shot just 4-for-9 for 11 points in the Game 6 elimination game and he took just two shots after halftime. Harden gave a peculiar explanation for his lack of aggression in a big moment and he received criticism for that as well.

On the flip side, the Sixers would not have been in a position to succeed if it wasn’t for their two stars and that is where the criticism can be a bit much. Georges Niang, a key reserve on the team, joined “The Ryen Russillo Podcast” and he gave his take on both Embiid and Harden.

Niang on Embiid as a person and a player

“It’s very interesting, to say the least. Joel is someone that obviously has been pegged to be one of the best players in the NBA, but above all else, he’s such a normal dude that only shows that opens up around people that he trusts. So a lot of people just think he’s like standoffish, to the side like doesn’t really have—but the dude has so much personality and is so funny. So off the court, it’s been great. I mean, he’s just a joy to be around. Funny, outgoing, but on the court and he’s super serious about his craft. I think the biggest thing that goes misconstrued is people don’t think that he works or he looks like he’s lazy or people want to say that he’s out of shape, but the dude is diligently working all the time and finding ways whether it’s watching film with coaches, or even his workout guy Drew Hanlen, those guys are constantly figuring out ways of how he can maneuver around double teams or evading double teams, or how to get guys open shots. So it was a joy to play alongside someone that literally can score at all three levels. From the post, the mid-range, and he can make 3s. So it was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to this coming year, and hopefully, redeeming ourselves going forward.”

Niang on how losing MVP affected Embiid

“I think that meant a lot to him. Because like, Jo—so my dad is half African, so I understand like—or my dad’s full African, I’m half African—so I understand like, the culture of like, respect and what you worked for, for that respect, and obviously, Jo has looked at Kobe (Bryant) or (Michael) Jordan and seen like, when you compare these guys, these are the accolades that they’ve won for people to respect and I think Jo wants to be like the best big man to ever play and one of the best players to ever play and he realizes that he ain’t getting any younger and these are accolades that you need to have that puts you in categories because nobody’s gonna remember your season six years ago. They’re only gonna remember if you won MVP.”

Niang on Embiid's play in the Heat series

“I mean, you break an orbital bone and you have a torn ligament in your thumb, I think, obviously, we rode him pretty hard throughout the whole year to get to where we were. I think you’re seeing it with a lot of teams. Teams running out of gas in playoff games. I know you watched the Boston-Miami series. I mean, there were times where I was like, holy smokes, like, these teams just look exhausted, and then I think back on it’s like, these last three seasons have been combined into like, two years, you know? It’s kind of crazy to think about that with COVID and everything that happened, that went on, that we’ve squeezed three seasons into two. This is the first offseason where everyone’s going to be in a normal offseason. So guys will be able to recoup their bodies but I mean, that’s not an excuse, but I think a lot of a lot of people have been worn down this playoffs”

Niang on the play of Harden

“I think the biggest thing with James is with his hamstring last year, and combining all these seasons together, he’s had a lot of mileage on his body. Especially, when he was in Houston playing all those minutes, getting up and down, and I think it’s an adjustment, right? James is playing with centers like Clint Capela who’s rolling to the rim. Not an ISO center like Joel or someone that catches it on the block.

So sometimes, James would get caught up trying to ISO and Joel is posting up and what it really was is, you need chemistry and practice time and we didn’t have a lot of that considering when the trade went down. So there’s a tough blend to find ‘Alright, when are we going to have James come off and in ISO and have the lane open with Joel out there or when are we going to have James be a creator and play make for other guys with Joel and a pick-and-roll or different things like that or space the floor?’ So, it was a tough dynamic. He’s catching a lot of heat from other people and like, ‘he needs to be better’, at the end of the day, when he has a full summer to get his legs up under him, and then, obviously, we have time to practice with training camp.

I think it’s gonna be a lot better. I mean, people are writing off a guy that was a top 75 player in the world. You can’t just say he just ultimately lost it. Like, there’s a lot of different variables that go into that and I think that people need to give it a little bit of time and patience. He got to us in what was it? Was it February? March? I really can’t remember but it’s like, we barely practiced during the year and we didn’t have any time. He started playing games after All-Star break is just wasn’t enough time for us to jell and grow together at the right time. You want to peak in the playoffs and we certainly didn’t do that”

Niang on Harden not bringing a certain focus to the game

“I think all of us have those moments, and needless to say, it’s frustrating. I mean, like when it comes down to a point where you turn and it feels like the wheels are falling off and then something where someone is minimal effort here there whether if it’s Tyrese Maxey, James, me, it’s frustrating, and I think all of us were frustrated. I think it got to a point where we were like, ‘Damn, like, Is this really happening? Did we really just lose by 30 and then come home and then get blitzed by Miami?’ and that was frustrating, to say the least. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you like ‘Oh yeah, we don’t look at that’. I mean, it’s frustrating as a whole.

I think at the end of the day, the media is gonna paint it as like one person. Like I said, James has taken a lot of grief, but we’ve watched film as a team and seen minimal effort plays by everybody else, but the only problem is that the fact that everybody knows James, Georges Niang gets away with letting Jimmy Butler drive by him, you know what I mean? So it really gets underplayed and the fact that James has been so good and is a superstar, it gets, obviously, all over everywhere, but needless to say, when you have plays like that, it’s frustrating. Especially, as a group and we’re going to address those from training camp to make sure that we’re in the right spots where we need to be so that we can compete and take games to Game 7s or close out series where we need to close out series.”

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