To Sixers fans, the Denver Nuggets represent a rivalry kindled twice a year.

To Joel Embiid, they represent the template for what it takes to win a championship.

"You look at, who won last year? Denver. They won last year. Jamal [Murray], Nikola [Jokic], they've been together for eight years. You look at some of the teams that have won; Golden State Warriors, they have been together for a long time," Embiid remarked in the aftermath of the Sixers' Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday.

"So, I don't remember the last time you just put a team together and hope that it works after one year. So, yeah, that's needed."

Embiid has spent his entire career cycling through teammates, the Sixers chasing their own tail as they attempt to clean up handfuls of mistakes throughout this era. While Embiid has justifiably seen the fingers pointed at him in some of Philadelphia's more spectacular playoff losses, he's spent more time wondering what could've been than most superstars do.

So, when he looks at the Nuggets and Warriors, he doesn't just see continuity; he sees continuity in the places it matters most.

As Embiid referenced, Jokic and Murray have had nearly a decade together, while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have been together for 12 years.

Continuity across the roster is important, even if eventually impossible to sustain; continuity at the top of the roster is paramount.

In some cases, continuity wasn't going to fix fundamental problems. Embiid watched Ben Simmons fail him and their teammates repeatedly. He bid the poor-fitting Al Horford adieu just one season into a four-year deal.

In other cases, the only problem was that there wasn't enough time to see what the continuity could blossom into. Embiid has seen two star ball-handlers who made his life easier, Jimmy Butler and James Harden, come and go, each in less than two seasons of work together.

The big fella has stood by this franchise through all of it, but Embiid clearly views the revolving door as a hindrance to him achieving the ultimate goal.

"If I remember correctly, in training camp earlier this year, that's the first thing I mentioned. Every single year, it's always been one person comes in and then the following year they're gone. Same thing just kept happening the last few years. This is really the first time where we got him," Embiid said, motioning to Tyrese Maxey.

"Obviously, he's taken a step and he was amazing this year. One of the 10 best players in the world this year. So, now you finally got the chance to build around it, where you got [Maxey] as young as he is and you have people like myself and some of the other guys we have in the locker room."

Speculating about stars changing teams makes for engaging offseason content. But, after Thursday's elimination from the 2024 playoffs, Embiid used the microphone to say all the things that suggest his eyes remain fixed on Philadelphia.

"We got a lot of cap space to make it happen. So, I think one of the big things when it comes to winning is, I mean, you look at all the teams that have won. You can't just put people together for one year and hope that it's going to work out. So, obviously we have some experience together. So, I think that's the way to go. Just got to keep going, keep building around it. You know, find the right mix of people to make it happen. But, yeah, I'm excited."

Make no mistake, no one is going to sell Embiid a bill of goods. He's aware that nothing is guaranteed as the team looks to undergo a major makeover this summer.

"When you look at it, it kind of looks exciting. Don't know what they're going to do, but they do have a lot of cap space and picks. So, they have the opportunity to build something good," Embiid said.

"But, then again, it's, 'who's going to be available?', whether it's free agency or trades. So, you can have all that stuff, but you also got to be lucky that something else comes up."

Embiid knows all of this maneuvering is easier said than done. But, as long as Maxey is by his side - of course, given how he speaks of Maxey, "as long as Maxey is there to lead the way" may be more accurate phrasing - the reigning league MVP feels that the Sixers' future remains bright.

"That's a great position to be in. You got a young superstar coming in. Face of the franchise for his whole career, really, in Philly coming in and that's exciting. And myself, and trying to build something great here," Embiid said.

"Based on what they do, like I said, I love our guys, I love the guys that we have. We just got to make sure that we work on ourselves and come back better as basketball players."

Embiid isn't interested in exerting pressure on the franchise's brain trust to make certain moves - at least not publicly, at least not as of Thursday, May 2. Given a chance to prescribe a player or team archetype needed going forward, Embiid rejected the opportunity.

"That's not my job. That's on those guys. That's what they get paid for," Embiid said, motioning to people who weren't present in the room.

"Our job is to get better as basketball players," Embiid said, motioning toward Maxey like a big brother acting as a spokesman for his little brother.

"Every single year, I find a way to get better. [Maxey]'s gotten so much better, and I think there's another step he can even take. Some of the guys in the locker room, they've gotten better. So, I think every single year, I've gotten better. So, I'm excited to keep working on my game myself and keep getting better. But, when it comes to guys around, I like our group of guys. I think we have an amazing group of guys. Obviously, it didn't work out this year. But, we also played a great team. The New York Knicks, they did a great job and they've played together for a long time. So, I like our guys. Obviously, they got a lot of decisions to be made. But, I think the group of guys that we had this year, they were amazing. And I still believe that if everything went right, we had a chance. But, everything didn't go right."

Even though the outcome fell well short of the goal, this team felt different than Sixers teams of the recent past. Regardless of whether that's true, regardless of the excitement about what the future may hold, Embiid's focus is on doing what it takes to hang a banner.

No, not getting out of the second round. Winning the whole damn thing.

"It's exciting to look at the future, to look at what's in front of you. But, it's also easier said than done. Got to be better as basketball players. I got to be better. Starting with myself, the whole series, I could've played better. Maybe if I was better, we would've won it. So, that's on me. That's why we lost. So, just got to find a way to get better as a basketball player, as a person, as a leader," Embiid said.

"Come back and hope that everything else aligns. [Maxey] has a chance to do something special next year again. I hope he becomes All-NBA this year. But, I think he can be in stuff like the MVP conversations, I think he can take that next step. As far as the rest of the team, based on what they do, whether they bring some of the guys that we have - especially because we have a lot of free agents - whether they bring them back or they bring new guys, we just got to bring them in and work with them so we make sure that we're all on the same page."

When the team came together for training camp in Fort Collins, Colorado, Nick Nurse asked everyone to have open minds as they embarked on both a new experience far away from Philadelphia and a new culture on the basketball court.

Even after yet another early playoff exit, Embiid is keeping his mind open.

Largely because of his belief in Maxey.

Concerts Coming to Atlantic City in 2024

More From 97.3 ESPN