P.J. Carlesimo likens Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons' struggles to Michael Jordan, LeBron James


The Sixers didn’t get off to the start they would’ve liked to this season. There’s been plenty of blame to go around.

Whether it’s coaching or roster construction or players just flat-out underperforming, there’s plenty of reasons given for why the Sixers haven’t looked like a championship team this season.

While health will always be at the forefront for an organization who’s had so much bad luck in that department, there’s a big factor people tend to forget about: Youth.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are All-Stars and obviously the stars of this team. But they’re just 26 and 23, respectively. They’ve only participated in the playoffs together twice. As "The Last Dance" documentary has reminded us, Michael Jordan was 28 when he won his first title. LeBron James was 27.

As a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast, former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo was asked if he thought the expectations — many of which were placed by the team itself — were a little unfair.

I don't think in a little way. I think in a dramatic way,” Carlesimo said. “I think there's two problems. The first problem with the Sixers is the youth. There's no question about that. As good as those two guys are, as much as they've accomplished ... they're very young in their careers. We just talked about how long it took Michael to win a championship, how long it took LeBron to win a championship. It's a little arrogant to think anybody else is going to do it any quicker than those guys. ... Michael and LeBron came in and were really good players right from the jump their rookie years, but it took them a long time to learn how to win a championship.

“And I think the other problem that goes hand in hand with that lack of experience, relatively speaking, is the injuries. Joel just hasn't been healthy. I mean, you talk about a guy who's been snakebit. I mean, he's played so few games out of what he could have played in his career. And then on top of that, now, Ben gets a really tough injury ... I think long term he's going to be OK. Joel, you gotta wonder about a little bit. The amount of injuries he's had is a little bit concerning. But I think there's no question Elton [Brand] continues to put good pieces together with them.

One of the pieces Brand brought in was Al Horford. Up this point, the signing hasn’t looked good. The spacing Horford was supposed to provide hasn’t come to fruition and the fit next to Embiid has been clunky.

Carlesimo liked the signing at the time and still thinks there’s a chance Brett Brown, who spent time with Carlesimo while both were assistants under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, will get the most out of that duo.

As for the team as a whole, Carlesimo likes the direction they’re headed and gives credit to former GM Sam Hinkie for having the team “knocking on the door” of a championship.

When asked if he thought the Process would be a success if the Sixers don’t win a title, Carlesimo offered an interesting perspective.

No, I don’t consider it a success, but I’ll be honest with you, it sounds trite, but one team wins every year. There’s maybe 20 teams, 25 teams that don’t have a chance to win a championship. There’s some franchise that say they want to win a championship, but that’s really not what they’re about. ... The Bucks are knocking on that door right now. If the Bucks don’t win a championship while Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is there, it wasn’t a success. It didn’t work. So, yes, looking back and being critical, no, if the Process doesn’t lead to a championship then it didn’t work, but it didn’t work any differently than it didn’t work for 29 other teams every year. ... If you don’t win the championship, it’s not a success. I think that’s the same standard the Process should be held to. I love where it’s gotten them right now, but if it doesn’t come to fruition, if they don’t win a championship, no, the Process didn’t work. …

“If this does come to fruition, I think that Sam deserves a ton of credit, and I think the Sixers’ ownership deserves a ton of credit. And I don’t think they deserve criticism if it doesn’t. They chose a different path and this path has them knocking on the door. There’s a lot of other franchises in this league that aren’t knocking on the door. They’re doing whatever they’re doing, they’re not even remotely close to getting to the second or third round of the playoffs or dreaming about winning championships. I think for the Sixers to be where they are now is great. It’s worked. But these next couple steps are tough.

For more from Carlesimo about his experience coaching Michael Jordan, his relationship with Brett Brown and more, check out the latest edition of the Sixers Talk podcast below.

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