Kendrick Perkins reacts to Joel Embiid missing battle against Jokic- “Joel Embiid is ducking that smoke"
The Philadelphia 76ers are set to face off against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night in one of the more highly anticipated matchups of the NBA season. Unfortunately, the excitement around it took a notable dip following the news early in the day that Joel Embiid will not be playing due to a lingering calf issue.
This takes away the MVP showdown that was expected to take place as Embiid and Nikola Jokic are considered the two biggest finalists for the award for the third consecutive season.
Many fans and analysts were understandably upset by the news. ESPN's Kendrick Perkins was one of the first to begin throwing fuel on the flames in being critical of Embiid.
"Joel Embiid is ducking that smoke today," Kendrick Perkins said. "He has been on record. We know how much it means to him to win this award (MVP), and here it is. You gave Jokic a spanking when they was down there in Philly. You have to give him an opportunity to get his lick back. You cannot sit out this game."
Will sitting out sway MVP voting?
Perkins said he has an MVP vote, and this will weigh into his decision when the season concludes. Joel Embiid is currently regarded as the MVP favorite, but Nikola Jokic is right on his tail, and sitting out the high-profile matchup does not bode well for the Sixers superstar.
Embiid has been battling a lingering calf issue for the past few weeks. He was pulled in the second half of the Sixers' victory over the Bulls on Wednesday due to the issue, but suited up for both ends of the Sixers' back-to-back matchup against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns this weekend. Embiid attempted to go through shootaround with the team Monday morning but ultimately was unable to.
As Perkins said in his rant, Embiid and Jokic have faced off once already this season. Embiid put forth a convincing performance, finishing with 47 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks while leading the Sixers to a comeback win. Jokic finished with 24 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and seven turnovers.
The focus from Embiid and the Sixers is clearly on ensuring he is ready for the playoffs, but his absence Monday night will be disappointing nonetheless. The Sixers (49-25) sit in third place in the Eastern Conference with eight regular-season games remaining.
On the year, Embiid is leading the NBA in scoring for the second consecutive season by averaging 33.3 points per game while shooting a career-high 54.5. He has scored 40.2% of the Sixers' points this month, which is the highest mark of any player, while the team has faced the league's toughest schedule.
The show will go on without him as the Sixers and Nuggets tip off, giving Jokic a chance to make a leap in the MVP race. It is yet to be seen how this will impact voting and perhaps Embiid's calf issues clear up ahead of the matchup with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.