Joel Embiid

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons to be concerned about Embiid’s injury

Dave Uram
February 20, 2019 - 3:10 pm

Not too much is distracting Philadelphia sports fans from the Bryce Harper, and formally Manny Machado, mania. But, the 76ers managed to do that Wednesday afternoon with the news that franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid is experiencing left knee soreness and will undergo physical therapy and load management, with a re-evaluation to come in approximately one week. Embiid had an MRI that revealed no structural damage. The time missed is simply precautionary, according to the team.

Brett Brown often refers to Embiid as the team’s “crown jewel,” which isn’t an overstatement. Brown told reporters after practice that he knew about Embiid’s soreness for a few weeks, however it reached a stage where Embiid felt uncomfortable, which Brown referred to as a little bit of common tendinitis that NBA players experience. The head coach disagrees with the notion that playing in the All-Star Game affected Embiid’s knee negatively, additionally speculating that time off might’ve contributed to the discomfort based on the medical staff’s recommendation that staying active is helpful to avoid these occurrences. Basically, Brown downplayed the severity, emphasizing that it’s important to make sure Embiid’s ready for “when it matters most.”

That’s all well and good, and maybe this turns out to be a minor blip on the radar. But, expectations are extremely high and there are only 24 regular season games left. Here are three reasons why this could be a problem if Embiid’s absence lingers longer than a week.

Playoff Seeding

The 76ers currently sport a 37-21 record heading into Thursday night’s home game against the Heat, which is very good. Yet, right now that’s only good for fifth in the East behind Boston, Indiana, Toronto and Milwaukee. If the playoffs started today, the Sixers would start on the road at the Celtics, which could very well lead to a first round exit, especially if the problems against Boston persist. It’s essential for the Sixers to rack up as many wins as possible over the next 24 games so they can finish no lower than the third-seed, which could result in a opening round match-up against the Nets, Hornets, Piston, Heat or Magic.

Building Chemistry Amongst The Starters

Don’t be mistaken, the 76ers new starting five looked rather good in their four games together before the All-Star break. That being said, issues against Boston continued. If the Sixers do need to face the Celts in the first round, then they need to be at the top of their game chemistry wise. Embiid missing at least a week is valuable time to figure things out, especially against inferior opponents like the Heat and Pelicans. The Trail Blazers are sandwiched in between those two teams. Embiid missed the first game against Portland, which was a 129-95 loss. Of course, that’s before Tobias Harris arrived.

What’s Next?

It’s not entirely fair to call Embiid injury prone considering he’s played in 54 of 58 games this season, as well as 73 last season between the regular season and playoffs. However, this year he’s battled through a combination of knee, back and ankle discomfort. As the sub title states, simply put, what’s next? Embiid deserves credit for overcoming his first three years out of college by playing substantial minutes in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but at the same time, you’re not out of line for holding your breath.