Fit is everything in the NBA. Even if things are going well, keeping everyone happy is often harder than just winning basketball games. It’s one of the more amazing things about the Golden State Warriors, really — it took three championships for a bit of public, in-season conflict to truly emerge from one of the NBA’s most impressive dynasties.
You can never be totally sure what’s going on with a team internally, though. Unless they come out and tell you, Kyrie Irving could be disgruntled playing with LeBron James and request a trade when you least expect it. You just never really know.
Except in the case of Joel Embiid, who came out and said he’s not thrilled with how things are going for him, personally, lately with the Philadelphia 76ers. The team is winning, sure, and Jimmy Butler’s acquisition has brought the headband-filled good times to Philadelphia, but apparently not everyone is feeling the vibe.
Embiid told reporters after the Sixers beat the Detroit Pistons to move to 18-9 on the season that he’s not feeling like “himself lately,” the reason being that he’s currently a stretch-5 for the Sixers now that Butler is on the team.
“I haven’t been myself lately,” Embiid told Philly.com. “I think it’s mainly because of the way I’ve been used, which is I’m being used as a spacer, I guess, a stretch-5, which I’m only shooting  percent” from 3-point range.
“But it seems like the past couple games, like with the way I play, our setup, [coach Brett Brown] always has me starting on the perimeter … and it just really frustrates me.”
Brown said after the game Friday that the team needs to give Embiid more space to do what he does best, not just set Butler up. But he didn’t want to say it was Butler’s fault that Embiid wasn’t putting up the points we’ve grown used to a healthy Process accumulating.
“I don’t want to connect those dots,” the coach said. “But I think in general we all have to do better at creating space for Joel.”
Still, Embiid says he’s frustrated. He’s always honest. It’s kind of his thing. And just because he doesn’t feel like “himself” doesn’t mean he’s not happy with winning. But it seems clear that he’d rather have a different role with the Sixers, and Butler has disrupted that to the point where he feels uncomfortable with his game. Whether it erupts into anything significant is unclear right now, but it’s going to be addressed moving forward.
The concern with acquiring a player like Butler was that he might clash personally with some of the Sixers’ young players like Simmons and Embiid. But the concern was more his personality, not his position.