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Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers and the loss of hope

Joel Embiid, fresh off his first MVP award, has to prove himself now more than ever.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

When a basketball season ends I typically look to write some form of a postmortem, an attempt to make sense of what the heck just happened. Once you come to grips with the way things ended it's easier to move forward and set what the priorities should be for the rest of the offseason.

Typically, that sort of a column would come the night of the final loss, or perhaps a day after. That's when it should come out, from a business perspective at least. Tap into the emotions when they're the most raw and you have the best chance to drive subs, or clicks, or whatever it is your business model requires.

But this end of the season was different than prior years. Sixers fans, even their biggest believers, even those that were holding out hope the longest, were left grappling with feelings they hadn't felt in a long, long time. True disappointment hits differently, especially when it's combined with a loss of faith in key personnel.

And no person is more key to the franchise, to this era, than Joel Embiid.

So I decided that I would wait before writing this column. You see, us sportswriters, try as hard as we might to deny it, are still humans, capable of being swept up in the moment, either as a conscious decision to try to game the attention economy for our own benefit, or subconsciously as we let the panic and anger of the public sway our evaluation, even if just a little bit in one direction or the other.

Now that I'm writing independently I wanted to take a step back and put some time between what we saw in Boston and when I sat down to write the eulogy of the 2022-23 Sixers season, just to see if a little bit of time could offer a fresh perspective. I went back an re-watched the game a week after the fact, void of emotion or surprise, to see if my initial thoughts were overreactions. I tried to put what happened in a more historical perspective.

So, here we are.

Before we get into it, this column is worthless. It's an unnecessarily long, rambling, borderline incoherent mess about a topic that is over a week old at this point, and a topic that you've already discussed to death, and I'm providing little new information here. If you're a subscriber, no hard feelings from me if you skip this one. If you're not a subscriber, this probably isn't the column to convince you to sign up. You will be disappointed. You have been warned.

Once this post is fired off, I'll be diving into offseason content in earnest, I promise.

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