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Keith Pompey: Joel Embiid and Paul George appeared together on NBA Countdown. Could they reunite on the Sixers?

Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

After Friday, some will view an inability to acquire Paul George in free agency as a major failure for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Joel Embiid was at American Airlines Center for Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the visiting Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. The Sixers franchise player appeared on ESPN's NBA Countdown show, where George was a guest host, before the Mavs' 122-84 victory. And both players made it clear how badly they wanted to reach the Finals themselves as players.

It's no secret that the Sixers will pursue George once free agency begins on June 30 if he declines his $48.8 million player option with the Los Angeles Clippers for next season.

While seated next to George on the telecast, Embiid was asked his thoughts about seeing his archrival Celtics on the cusp of winning the championship.

"I can't stand them," Embiid said of the Celtics, who hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. "I hate Boston. You know, great city. Great fans. Obviously, they got some great players. But it ... hurts me a lot.

"So, hopefully, this offseason we find a way to get better and add some pieces," Embiid continued while glancing at George and smiling. "So, yeah."

Embiid's public comments confirm how serious the Sixers are about adding George, a nine-time All-Star swingman. Despite being ousted in the first round, the team believes it could be the Eastern Conference's second-best team with a healthy Embiid and Tyrese Maxey leading the way.

But the Sixers think an All-Star trio of Embiid, Maxey, and George will enable them to challenge the Celtics for not just conference but league supremacy. By acquiring George, the Sixers would replace Tobias Harris with one of the league's elite wings.

The 34-year-old is coming off his 14th NBA season. In addition to being a nine-time All-Star, he is a six-time All-NBA selection and a four-time All-Defensive Team pick.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals this season. He shot a career-best 41.3% on three-pointers.

On Friday, George and Embiid both witnessed a Finals atmosphere up close. They both nodded when ESPN's Kendrick Perkins said, "I know both of you guys probably want to be here performing on the big stage."

"That's a goal," Embiid said. "You want to win a championship. All I care about is legacy. How can I find a way to accomplish what it is that I want to accomplish, and that's win a championship.

"Whether I got to find a way to do it with what I have or what they put in place for us to win, I'm going to try my best to make it happen."

 

Maybe it was inadvertent. But while talking to Perkins, Embiid's right hand moved closer to George when he said "find a way to accomplish what it is that I want to accomplish."

George was evasive while answering the question.

"This is my first Finals appearance, and I hate that it's come in this fashion," he said. "Watching from the sideline, it [doesn't] feel good. Shout-out to the two teams that made it this far. But when you think back to what we should have done and could have done better to be where they are right now, it doesn't feel good right now.

"All of the little plays, you start to think about."

However, his appearance with Embiid on Friday night makes one think about how George coming to the City of Brotherly Love would be a great fit. And based on social media reactions, it gave Sixers fans added hope that something will transpire.

According to league sources, Los Angeles is unwilling to offer George more than the three-year, $152.3 million extension it gave to Kawhi Leonard. He is eligible to receive a four-year, $221 million contract.

The Sixers, who will have close to $65 million in cap space this summer, can offer a four-year, $212 million contract. The Clippers are hoping that George, a Southern California native, will take less money to remain close to home.

It would make sense from a financial standpoint for George to move on. California has a 13.3% tax rate for people who earn more than $1 million annually. As a result, George would owe $6.5 million in state taxes on his projected $49.35 million free-agency salary for next season, according to Forbes. The magazine states it would cost him only $1.5 million in taxes in Pennsylvania, where the state tax is 3.07%.

The Orlando Magic, another team with a lot of cap space, also is monitoring the situation. But give Embiid credit for making an unplanned appearance on NBA Countdown after learning George was a guest host.

His actions fueled free-agency rumors and the expectations that George is in play for the Sixers. That's why his not signing with the Sixers would be viewed as disappointing after Embiid's appearance.

The 2023 MVP, Embiid won't acknowledge whether a championship would be the beginning of a dynasty for the Celtics. Embiid says "there's a pretty good chance" the Sixers will come for Boston next season.


(c)2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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