Philadelphia 76ers fans’ worst fears are becoming reality as the oft-injured center may not be ready for the team’s first-round playoff series.
Joel Embiid, the All-Star center who played just 64 games with an assortment of injuries and load management, is questionable (to say the least) for Game One of the Sixers’ playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Philadelphia came under heat throughout the year not only for leaning so heavily on their franchise big man (he averaged 33.7 minutes per game) but also for how involved he was during what some would call meaningless moments of midseason games. Now, that criticism becomes even sharper with Embiid’s status in doubt.
Asked whether he would be available for Game One, which is Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET, Joel Embiid was clueless.
It’s not just that Embiid didn’t know — he’s also in a lot of pain.
For a big man with a history of leg and lower body injuries — most notably a broken navicular bone in his right foot that cost him his first two NBA season — this new development is startling. Philly has its sights set on a championship and will need Embiid at full strength to achieve their goal.
It’s impossible to know, even if he plays, what level he’ll be at or if he will be rested enough to play at full strength in later rounds.
One piece of good news for Sixers fans is that Embiid is at least practicing. He will participate fully in the team’s Friday practice and then make the decision along with the team tomorrow on whether he can play in Game One.
Fortunately, the Sixers are likely still favorites in the first round even without Embiid. The Nets just don’t have the top-end talent or experience to knock off Philadelphia.
Moving forward, a looming second-round clash with Toronto would require an elite performance from Embiid, who looked like an MVP candidate early in the year. The Raptors acquired Marc Gasol at the trade deadline in large part to defend Embiid in the post. Playing without the big man would limit the Sixers’ ceiling considerably.
For the sake of great basketball, our fingers are crossed that Embiid can recover in time to make an impact in his second postseason.