The injury bug has bit the Philadelphia 76ers quite a bit to start the year. James Harden is set to miss the next month with a right foot tendon strain. Matisse Thybulle and De’Anthony Melton have each battled some knocks and Joel Embiid has missed four of the Sixers’ first 10 games. Embiid has clearly not looked like himself in the games he has been on the court.
Following the loss to the New York Knicks, Doc Rivers shed some light on what the superstar is dealing with. Embiid was listed as questionable leading up to the matchup and even went out to warm up before the game. He had his shoulder taped and according to the accounts of reporters, he did not look ready to play. The Sixers were a few minutes late on the typical lineup announcement, which raised some eyebrows, but Embiid ultimately did not suit up for the matchup.
Doc Rivers Comments On Embiid
Upon being asked about Embiid’s pregame workout and the decision for Embiid not to play, Rivers stated “We didn’t know, honestly, we didn’t know. I was 50/50 watching him at shootaround. I thought he was really struggling. He went through like 25% of shootaround this morning. You can see he wasn’t feeling great, showed up, went out on the floor, got shots, and just felt bad and the way we look at it, we have the next two days off with practice and now, we can ramp him up and get him back.”
It is important to note that, while it may feel like the end of the world already to some fans, there is still plenty of time left in the season. The Sixers are just ten games into their 82-game slate. The focus of this team is on the postseason and competing for a championship. While the regular season cannot be fully overlooked, there is still plenty of reason for optimism when the team gets fully healthy.
Rivers acknowledged this as much and stated “Obviously, we want to win the game, right? And putting him on the floor would obviously help us, but we got to also think of the long game as well. I thought it was the right decision not to play him.”
Embiid’s Outlook Moving Forward
Durability has never been at the top of the list of the best qualities of Embiid. He is traditionally a slow starter to begin the season but has looked poor even by these standards. While it may be overcritical of a guy who is still averaging 27.2 points and 9.5 rebounds, the larger concerns have been on the defensive end. This seems to be correlated to the offseason in which Embiid battled a number of ailments. Rivers noted that his fitness following the three days of sickness was the main reason that kept him out of the previous game. However, he also noted that the foot is not back to 100%.
Embiid was not joking on media day when he stated that he spent the summer “chilling on the couch.” The reigning MVP runner-up had off-season surgery on both hands due to the sprained right thumb and left index finger injury that were sustained late last season. It also was noted that he battled plantar fasciitis and was unable to spend much time working out as a result.
While no one was hoping for a 4-6 start to the season by the Sixers, getting Embiid healthy must be the priority. The team will not reach its potential without the superstar returning to form. The Harden-led teams have shown success but he also will be missing an extended period of time.
Getting Embiid on the right track and then adding Harden back to the mix is the clearest route for the Sixers to rise to the championship-caliber team they aspire to be. It has not been the seamless transition it was hoped for, but all goals are still in sight. For now, the priority must be on getting the stars healthy and building from there.