The Philadelphia 76ers are no stranger to getting slammed in the media for basketball decisions that are charitably called “questionable” and more accurately called “the kinds of things that would get you kicked out of a bar because you’re obviously too drunk to be there.”
Now we can add former Sixers star Charles Barkley to the list of those scoring on the Sixers’ inept management.
At halftime of Philadelphia’s 120-96 pasting of the Indiana Pacers on TNT Thursday night, Barkley chopped up his old team so thoroughly that all that was missing was some provolone cheese and a hoagie roll.
Barkley called the Sixers “the stupidest organization in the history of sports.”
At issue was oft-injured Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who was drafted in 2014 and has played in just 137 of his team’s 466 games since then.
Embiid was limping around with a bad back like an 80-year-old man trying to get from the rocking chair to the kitchen for a sandwich.
Barkley was quick to point out that a regular-season game — even one with eventual playoff tiebreaker implications against a team that, coming into last night, was exactly one game ahead of Philadelphia in the standings — is no place to be risking the health of a superstar player.
“Let me just say this about the Philadelphia 76ers: They’ve got to be the stupidest organization in the history of sports,” he said. “You’ve got a franchise player who’s got a bad back, who’s injury-prone. He can barely walk, and you’ve got him out there playing in a regular-season game.
“You have to be the stupidest organization …”
Charles Barkley calls The 76ers the dumbest franchise in The NBA for playing Embiid when he’s hurt. Shaq disagrees and says Embiid needs Icy Hot https://t.co/NvASM4RSpD
— Daily NBA Scoop (@dailynbascoop) January 18, 2019
Meanwhile, Barkley’s fellow former NBA players on the TNT set, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, defended the Sixers’ decision as a show of toughness.
They praised Embiid for playing through the injury in a big game and warned that if the Sixers shut him down at the first sign of trouble, they’d risk turning Embiid “soft” — that favored epithet of sports broadcasters and fans alike for the kinds of players who miss any game where they don’t have a broken bone poking through their skin.
On some level, it’s hard to argue with the results; Embiid lit up the Pacers like a pinball machine, putting up 22 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots and making Indiana’s young center combo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis look like G-League players in the process.
Plus, forcing the Pacers to respect the low-post presence of a guy who’s been eating Turner’s lunch for three seasons now meant J.J. Redick was able to get 20 points while making six 3-pointers.
Embiid undoubtedly was the key piece in the Sixers’ statement road win on national TV.
But if he misses the playoffs because his back gives out, will any of that matter? Over one regular-season game that looks to be purely about the race for the No. 3 and 4 seeds in the East, where one team will get stomped by Milwaukee in the second round of the playoffs while the other team gets to get crushed by Toronto instead.
As Barkley pointed out, “You gave the guy $150 million. He’s got a bad back. He’s clearly laboring. Why would you play him?”
The 76ers organization long ago lost the benefit of the doubt. And Charles Barkley clearly put that fact out there where everyone could see it on national television Thursday night.
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