Sixers Star Joel Embiid Reveals Injury Concern: ‘You Still Think About It’

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers

There have been quite a few times this season where Joel Embiid has looked tentative in the paint. He’s not throwing up his hands as much or extending his fingers out to fight for rebounds. Blame some lingering effects from two off-season hand surgeries.

After beating the Pacers 120-106, Embiid admitted that he’s still not comfortable boxing guys out following procedures on his right thumb and left index finger. Pacers forward Jalen Smith was giving Embiid fits inside with his athleticism, with Isaiah Jackson struggling to stay out of foul trouble.

Embiid won the battle but they made him work for it. The 7-footer didn’t collect his first defensive rebound until 8:37 was showing in the first quarter.

“I mean, you still think about it, especially when it comes to boxing out,” Embiid told reporters on Monday night. “I’m still not comfortable using my hands and my fingers because I think that’s how I got hurt in the first place. My finger getting caught on somebody.”

The Big Fella also endured a broken orbital bone but chose to forego surgery there. Then, head coach Doc Rivers revealed he was battling plantar fasciitis (heel) during the offseason which limited his ability to train. It’s been an adjustment learning to play through everything, although Embiid would never use injuries as excuses.

“So, I’ve still got to get comfortable with that,” Embiid said. “Boxing out, I haven’t been using my hands much and trying to use my elbows and my forearms. I’m sure over time it’s going to get better.”

Embiid Wants Teammates to ‘Let It Fly’

Embiid was deliberately trying to be more patient on the offensive end, allowing the ball to swing from side to side. They were settling for too many quick shots in the first three games. Rivers pointed it out in film study and stressed to them the importance of being “in sync” with each other on offense and defense.

“That was really the plan going into the game. No more overdribbling,” Embiid said. “Trying to make sure the team has an identity where we just know what to do as far as moving the ball side to side. That was my plan going into the game.”

Embiid took it to heart, especially in the first half. He swung the ball to his shooters — Tobias Harris had 10 points at halftime — and the Sixers had jacked up 43 three-pointers against Indiana by the time the final whistle sounded. Harris finished 4-of-10 from three-point land for 18 points.

“I don’t think we’re taking enough threes and I just think we just need to let it fly,” Embiid said. “Tonight (Monday) was better, 43? It was better and then that’s how you gonna go on runs. That’s how you go and put teams away. If teams are gonna guard either me or James [Harden] that way, we can’t think about it. We can’t pump fake. We got to let it fly.”

Fighting for Backup Minutes Behind Embiid

The ongoing battle for the backup big minutes slightly favored Montrezl Harrell on Monday night. He was the first sub in and scored 5 points in 11 minutes. Paul Reed would get his turn later and supplied his trademark energy amid a loud chorus of cheers from the home crowd. He finished with zero points in 9 minutes, although he did get his hand up to swat a pass for a steal.

“I know what [Doc Rivers] wants from me,” Reed told Justin Grasso of All 76ers. “He wants me to go out there and play defense, get rebounds, set good screens, run the floor hard, do all the dirty work, and just go out there and be effective.”

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