New Joel Embiid Injury Update Could Determine Sixers’ Season

Joel Embiid

Getty Images Joel Embiid is dealing with another injury.

There is growing optimism within the Philadelphia 76ers that Joel Embiid, who underwent knee surgery on February 6, will return at some point before the end of the regular season. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Sixers haven’t set a timeframe on Embiid’s return, but are hopeful to have him back on the court in the lead-up to the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

“There is an optimism in Philadelphia that Joel Embiid can return at some point during the regular season — at least close enough to the playoffs to get his rhythm heading into the playoffs,” Shelburne said on ESPN’s “NBA Today” on February 21. “But [the Sixers] don’t want to put any timeframe on it until he starts ramping up, but I’m told, he went to practice, he got there early to see how everything was in the morning. His enthusiasm is there.”

Sixers Desperately Need Joel Embiid Back

Since Embiid re-injured his knee during the January 30 game against the Golden State Warriors, the Sixers have gone 2-4 and have fallen to the fifth seed in the competitive Eastern Conference. Considering that the seventh-seeded Miami Heat are only two-and-a-half games behind in the loss column, the Sixers could potentially become a play-in-bound team if they fail to right the ship.

While many believe the 76ers offense should stay afloat in Embiid’s absence, with All-Star Tyrese Maxey (25.7 points per game), Tobias Harris (17.7 points per game) and trade deadline acquisition Buddy Hield (22.3 points per game as a Sixer), the same can’t be said about their defense.

In February, the Sixers are allowing opponents to score at a whopping 49.7 percent from the field while giving up nearly 15 threes per game. That defense is simply not going to cut it if they plan to remain a top-6 seed, which is why coach Nick Nurse has some tough decisions facing him. Should Nurse keep Hield in the starting unit despite his defensive shortcomings? Or trust in veteran Nic Batum to provide a sense of stability? Or must he call the veteran presence of Kyle Lowry?

During the Sixers practice session on February 21, Nurse admitted he’s still unsure about his rotations, especially with all the roster additions post-trade deadline.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out,” Nurse said on February 21, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think there will be some guys with limited minutes, guys in and out, guys working back into shape, guys working back into rhythm. But it looks good having those guys out there.”

Why the Sixers are Under Immense Pressure

As is well documented, the Sixers have not made the Conference Finals since 2001. During the 2023 Playoffs, they blew a 3-2 lead versus the Celtics after losing a critical Game 6 at home. The loss was so significant that it got Doc Rivers fired and James Harden demanding a trade.

However, a lot of that negativity vanished when Embiid became the first player in NBA history to register a stat line of 70 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists earlier this season. All was well in Philadelphia, and before Embiid’s injury, many felt 2024 was going to be the year the Sixers end their 23-year Conference Finals drought and possibly make the NBA Finals. While Embiid’s injury could be perceived as a built-in excuse if they fail to make a deep postseason run, the fervent Sixers fanbase continues to grow impatient.

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