Joel Embiid is playing in Game 1 of Philadelphia’s first-round playoff matchup against Brooklyn, but Embiid was originally listed as doubtful, and he was bewildered about it. His decision to play wasn’t announced until moments before tip-off. The only thing that’s clear is that he’s not playing at 100 percent.
The 25-year-old All-Star who missed the first two-and-a-half seasons of his pro career to knee and foot injuries has soreness in his left knee yet again. According to TNT’s Ros Gold-Onwude, he has pain when jumping and landing, and the level varies by day.
Embiid’s health has been a topic of discussion again for Sixers fans. He missed the first eight games after the All-Star break, then six more games after that. He was “experiencing left knee soreness and will undergo treatment involving physical therapy and load management,” per the league in his first eight-game resting stint. An MRI revealed no structural damage in late February.
Since then, Philly has been careful with Embiid’s health. He sat out either the front or back end of back-to-backs, with the team citing “load management.” Yet in a battle to ensure a top-3 seed, Philly played Embiid 37 minutes against Milwaukee on April 4, and 41 minutes on March 20 against Boston. How much that hurt his recovery is debatable, but it couldn’t have helped. Embiid’s health is far more important than playoff positioning.
In separate press conferences ahead of the playoff series against the Nets, 76ers brass made vague statements regarding Embiid’s health. When asked if the games Embiid’s missed were because of load management or a knee injury, general manager Elton Brand dodged.
“I’m optimistic (Joel) plays this weekend, but it’s a combination of how he feels,” Brand said Wednesday. “I think he’ll present well and he’ll be ready, but we don’t know.”
“I’m optimistic (Joel) plays this weekend, but it’s a combination of how he feels. I think he’ll present well and he’ll be ready, but we don’t know.”#Sixers GM Elton Brand on the status of Joel Embiid for this weekend pic.twitter.com/DZ3qkmrpeX
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) April 11, 2019
Head coach Brett Brown stopped answering questions about Embiid’s injury entirely.
“The club will make the statement in a clearer way than I guess I have about Joel,” Brown said Wednesday. “I’m done with the Joel questions. We’ll put out something that’s fair. I get your questions, but I’m done answering those.”
Embiid himself could only offer up an “I don’t know” statement, which is rare for a player known for being adamant to play through pain. “[It’s] just about the pain in my knee,” he said, according to the Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck. “Just got to keep working through it and see how I feel every day, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Sixers simply can’t afford to miss Embiid for too long, even against Brooklyn.