PHILADELPHIA — George Karl isn’t a racist for saying Joel Embiid looks lazy, but he’s doing a great job of proving Kendrick Perkins right. And no, Perkins isn’t right.
Karl, 71, is a Hall of Fame coach, basketball royalty, a star at North Carolina, and a five-year ABA pro with 1,175 NBA coaching wins. I’ve known him for more than three decades, since he coached the Albany Patroons in 1991, and he’s always been kind of a dumbass. To wit:
On Sunday, he told SiriusXM NBA Radio, with an embarrassing amount of ignorance:
“I don’t want to bad mouth Embiid, because I think he’s really, really good … But he takes too many possessions off. He has lazy body language.”
Karl unwittingly fell into a racist trope that holds that Blacks — and other minorities — are lazy. Karl, in this case, isn’t racist; he’s simply wrong. Karl also sounds dumb. Matter of fact, it’s Karl who sounds lazy. It’s as if he hasn’t watched the most talented player on the planet since COVID hit.
You see, three years ago, Karl would have been right. However, since the birth of Embiid’s son Arthur in September of 2020, Embiid has been far more professional than he was his first six seasons. That Embiid was never in shape. That Embiid wouldn’t play hurt. That Embiid wouldn’t play sick. That Embiid would wilt at the sight of Marc Gasol and Al Horford.
He plays hurt. He plays sick. He routinely roasts the best defenders in the NBA.
Perkins, the ESPN analyst and former bully-ball big man mostly for the Celtics, on March 7 claimed that MVP voters who helped Nuggets center Nikola Jokic win the last two MVP awards over Embiid voted for Jokic because he’s white like them. Then Perkins and Karl dueled on Twitter that afternoon.
What Perkins said was almost as dumb as what Karl said.
Perkins’ accusation ignored two realities:
1. Many of Jokic’s voters are Black.
2. All of Jokic’s voters believe his offensive wizardry compensates for his defensive deficiencies. Embiid is, arguably, the most valuable defensive player in the past 15 years. Voting for Jokic over Embiid purely based on talent and production always has been dumb. Not racist. Just dumb.
Karl also contradicted himself. In the same answer, Karl allowed that Embiid is “really, really good,” and that his assistants with Philly connections told him that Embiid was going to be an all-time great: “I see him moving in that direction.”
“Because he’s a competitive S.O.B. The games I’ve seen, he’s played really, really well. He’s played great in the fourth quarters of a lot of comeback wins.”
In their Twitter duel, Karl insists that Jokic’s MVP successes aren’t racially based. Intriguingly, Perkins indicates that Karl does have a racist past, but does not cite examples.
At any rate, Karl probably didn’t think the answer he gave would be dissected and parsed by underworked columnists and bloggers, but here we are.
Karl’s affinity for the Nuggets’ Jokic likely lies in Karl’s affinity for offense and his connection to Denver, where he coached for eight seasons. He last coached the Kings, in 2016, and it shows. He seems to be stuck in an era where the players he appreciated most shut up and put up.
Consider this Embiid review: “I just don’t know that he’s that NBA pro we all love.”
“He gets angry at things that we don’t understand why.”
Again, the last two statements indicate that Karl is thinking about an Embiid that hasn’t existed in years. The Embiid who appropriated the term, “The Process,” as his self-appointed nickname before playing a single NBA game, diminishing other players who were a part of that idiotic strategy. The Embiid who beefed with Karl-Anthony Towns on the court and on social media. The Embiid who bawled on the court and in the tunnel after losing to the Raptors in Game 7 in 2019.
That Embiid was not a pro. That Embiid played lazy basketball.
This Embiid? This Embiid has been the most valuable player in the NBA now for the past three seasons.
George Karl should maybe check him out.