Joel Embiid Knee Injury: Latest on Sixer Center’s Return

Getty Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on in the second half against the New York Knicks.

The Philadelphia 76ers will enter tonight’s road tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder without their starting 2 centers.

Joel Embiid will miss his fourth consecutive game due to tendinitis in his left knee, per Keith Pompey of Philly.com. Meanwhile, Boban Marjanovic remains out after a bone bruise and right knee sprain he suffered in Monday’s 111-110 loss to the Pelicans.

The third-year center hurt his knee just before the All-Star break. While some questioned his participation for Team Giannis’ 178-164 loss to Team Lebron, his coach Brett Brown deflected the criticism.

“It’s a natural dot connector and it shouldn’t be to think that had anything to do with it,” Brown told reporters at the team’s practice facility at the time. “The bottom line is nobody needs to read into anything here. This is an NBA athlete that has some soreness in a knee, he’s had an MRI and we all should move on.”

The team is expected to provide an update on Embiid before Saturday’s game vs. Golden State. The original prognosis was a week, per Brown.

Embiid’s Production Versus His Injury History

Embiid is sixth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points per game. He’s tied for second in rebounds (13.5) and tied for seventh in blocks (1.94). He’s raised his scoring output in all three of his NBA campaigns, going from 20.2 in his rookie year to 22.9 points last season.

On the other hand, he’s had his fair share of boo boos since joining the league. Last February, he missed 17 of the last 18 games with a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his knee.

His foot has been an issue, as well. John Smallwood of Philly.com expressed his concern over his long-term health last winter.

“Still, the amount of time Embiid has missed because of (the foot injury), combined with the two surgeries to the foot,” he wrote. “Combined with the stress fracture in his back that prematurely ended his lone collegiate season at Kansas, raises red flags about fragility.”

Flash forward to today, and the likely explanation for Embiid’s absence is load management. Embiid has played in 54 of the teams 58 games thus far in 2018-19, so Brown might just sit him until it’s absolutely necessary.

Sixers’ Defensive Outlook Until Their Centers Return

Philadelphia is 2-1 since Embiid’s absence, which includes two squeakers over the Heat and Pelicans and a 15-point loss at home to the Trailblazers.

Despite the winning record, the Philadelphia defense is missing Embiid’s (and Marjanovic’s) presence on the inside. The defense has ceded a little over 114 a night during this stretch. This would rank near the bottom of the league in scoring defense extrapolated over a season.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia provided a good video analysis of the defense sans Embiid.

Levick cites a drop in “pick-and-roll defense,” “slow rotations” and a “lack of a rim protector” for the defensive woes. Embiid and Marjanovic combine for nearly 3 blocks per night, so both absences have forced Brown to go to smaller lineups.

Former Serbian league center Jonah Bolden will carry the baton until both recover. He tallied 9 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes in the win over the Pelicans.