This pains me to write but it does feels right. Joel Embiid just isn’t healthy and it’s not worth pushing the “crown jewel” of the franchise through the rest of this first round against the Brooklyn Nets in his current condition. I understand the context. Fans had legitimate hopes for a title run. All year long we had an MVP candidate and a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate and a First-Team All NBA starter in Embiid. He was routinely dominating offensively and holding together a shaky defense with his sheer will and other-worldly combination of size, timing and agility. The Front Office and the Coach are in win-now mode and demonstrated that publicly with their words and actions. But it’s time to move forward in the smartest way with all of the information we now have. That means doing what it takes to increase the chances the team wins a title...not a game or two. And whether that happens this year or in the future, a few days off is the best bet.
He is not the same player he was two weeks ago. On March 28th this dude put up 39 and 13 in 28 minutes. On Saturday he was a -17 on 5-15 from the floor and visibly limping. The truth is hiding in plain sight.
A long-term set back, a major swelling, a compensation injury, a rupture (all risks when you play with severe knee-pain) would be crushing. Kawhi Leonard dealt with quad/knee tendinitis early in his career and it eventually cost him a full-season and has now plagued him in some way since 2012. In 2016 he was limping noticeably after a full summer off. He knows this and so he rested every 3-4 games all year to manage it. It’s not to be taken lightly.
I get it. The stakes are really really high. There are outsiders, haters, networks and rival fanbases staring at what’s happening, hoping, and praying for the death of “process.” What would they love more than to see the Sixers lose in the first round as Embiid limps up and down the court? He’ll never be healthy. Simmons can’t carry you. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will leave you. Or they’re not good enough to help you beat the lowly Nets and you’ll overpay them. Either way you’re doomed. You should never have tanked for these players! You need Ilyasova and Belinelli more than ever. Mwa-hahahaha.
But none of that is the end of the world if Joel is healthy. If his workload were managed better the Sixers could have made the playoffs with much lesser talent than they have and been a very scary team even as an 8th seed if Embiid were ready to rock now.
What would be a huge disaster is a major setback.