There is no denying that the relationships between NBA players on and off-the-court has changed over the last 15 years. In this era of AAU basketball, powerhouse sports agents, mega sneaker contracts and social media, the majority of today’s NBA stars are well connected to each other and former players. Thus, they have no problem texting an on-the-court rival for advice or working out with a division foe in the off-season or reaching out to a retired hoops legend in order to learn a new move.
Magic, Larry and Mike would never have dreamed of doing such things.
Again, times have changed and so today we are launching a new series here at Philadunkia.com that works off the above premise regarding current NBA players and applies it to the members of the 76ers roster. Which current and/or former players should key members of the Sixers pursuit gym time with in order to develop and improve their game outside of Brett Brown’s watch?
Today, I offer ideas for 2014 Lottery pick Joel Embiid (If Embiid was healthy.).
Below are four current or former NBA Players I would like to see Joel Embiid seek out and work with this off-season:
Hakeem Olajuwon: Hakeem seems to be the player that Kansas head coach Bill Self and most NBA “experts” compare Embiid to, so why not have the Sixers lottery pick work with the inventor of “the Dreamshake”. There’s no doubt that Hakeem’s footwork skills, deep bag of offensive moves and solid defensive game could be a very positive influence on Embiid. However, there are two intangibles that I want Emiid to discuss at length with Olajuwon. The first would be any tips/shortcuts Hakeem has on how to succeed in the NBA when you start palying basketball at a late age. Neither Olajuwon nor Embiid played hoops during their youth, but Olajuwon did not let that fact stop him from becoming one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Hopefully the two time NBA champ can drop some knowledge on Embiid reagrding this unique circumstance that the two centers share and speed up Joel’s learning curve.
The second intangible I want Hakeem to pass on to Embiid is advice on how to deal with being the centerpiece of a struggling franchise. Prior to Hakeem’s arrival in Houston, the 1983-84 Rockets finished with a 29-53 record. So when the Rockets selected the University of Houston All-American with the #1 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, Hakeem was immediately thrust into the ‘savior of the franchise’ role. Luckily Hakeem was able to handle that role as he helped push the Rockets to a playoff appearance as a rookie, an NBA Finals appearance in his second year and eventually two NBA Chamionships. With Embiid’s tremendous upside, I believe that expectations for him in Philly will be at a fantasy basketball owner’s level, much like what Hakeem experienced in Houston, and thus Olajuwon’s life experiences in that situation could benefit Joel.
David Robinson: While a host of basketball knowledgeable folks compare Embiid to Olajuwon, watching Joel at Kansas last year, he reminded me more of an unpolished David Robinson than “The Dream”. At Navy and during his early NBA days, Robinson was a 7-1, 240 pound, super athletic, shot blocking machine with a wide range of offensive moves. Embiid is 7-0, 240 pounds. He’s also super athletic and a swat master, but he needs to develop on the offensive end. So I am hoping that some time with Robinson will help in this area. It would be especially great if Robinson could work on Embiid’s mid-range skills and his shooting touch — two parts of the game that Robinson excelled in.
In addition to his on the court tutoring, and much like Hakeem, I’d want “The Admiral” to advise Embiid on being the centerpiece of a franchise that has bottomed out. In 1988-89 the Spurs finished with a 21-61 record, so when Robinson finally took the court for his rookie season in 1989-90 (He was drafted #1 overall in 1987, but had to sit out because of his Naval comission.) there was a great deal of pressure on him to rescue the Spurs franchise. That was no problem in “Mr. Robinson’s” neighborhood. As a rookie, Robinson led the SAS to the Western Confernce Finals and then proceeded to help the Spurs make the playoffs for 7 straight years. So I think he can help Embiid deal with the pressure of being crowned a franchise changer.
Moses Malone: My main reasoning behind wanting the 76er legend and Basketball Hall of Famer to work with Embiid is very simple — Malone is widely considered the Yoda to all of the great modern day centers. As a college player at Houston, Olajuwon was his Luke Skywalker, and after Hakeem’s national breakout in the early 1980’s, centers poured in from all over the galaxy to learn from Malone the master. Hell, even non-centers like Kobe and Lebron have sought ought time with Moses, so there’s no doubt that Embiid should spend some time with #2. I would hope Malone would spend a great deal of time with Embiid on rebounding and post scoring.
My hidden agenda for Embiid working with Moses is that he can relate to the expectations Embiid will be facing in Philadunkia nation (Notice a theme here with Embiid.). No one dealt with greater expectations than Malone did when he came to Philadelphia prior to the 1982-83 season. He was the missing link that would help Dr. J and the Sixers get past the Celtics/Lakers and to the promised land. A 76ers parade down Broad Street was all but guaranteed when the Sixers added Malone to the roster — now that’s pressure.
Kevin Garnett: It’s my belief that in addition to playing center, Embiid will also get a great deal of run at the power forward in his first couple of years with the Sixers. So who better to work with Embiid on mastering the 4-spot than Garnett, one of the best two-way power forwards in the history of the Association (15-time All-Star; 12-time NBA All-Defense team, 1-time Defensive Player of the Year). KG’s mid-range from his Boston days is something I would like to see Embiid add to his arsenal. However, in his early years Garnett also displayed a fantastic set of low post moves and if he can help Embiid in that area, it would be greatly appreciated by Philadunkia nation.
Despite his amazing offensive skills, the main area I want “The Big Ticket” to help Embiid with is his defense. Garnett was/is known for intimidating opponents with his in your face defense, trash talking and intensity. That combination allowed Garnett to be a fierce on-ball defender. Just ask Spencer Hawes about KG’s ways. I don’t know if Garnett’s mind frame and methods can be taught to another player or if it has to come from deep inside the individual, but either way I want him Embiid to spend some time with this legendary power forward working on the defensive side of the game.
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