Joel Embiid Suffers Major Injury: When Will Sixers Star Return?

Joel Embiid

Getty Sixers center Joel Embiid winces in pain after injuring his left ankle against the Miami Heat on December 15.

Joel Embiid has been ruled out for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. No, this isn’t a belated April Fool’s Joke. The Philadelphia 76ers center is out indefinitely after suffering a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion in Game 6 versus Toronto.

The team vowed to provide updates “as necessary” as they get set to take on the Miami Heat on May 2. Embiid’s injury occurred 3:58 left in the fourth quarter when Pascal Siakam clipped him with an elbow to the face. It came with the Sixers leading by 29 points.

While Siakam’s hit didn’t appear to be malicious or intentional, the play did draw an embarrassing reaction from Raptors fans. They cheered wildly and the Toronto announcers were quick to point out that Embiid’s “airplane celebration” following a nasty dunk at the other end was “bush league.”

Wait, there is some good news to add. Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck reported that “Embiid’s injury does not require surgery at this time.” The MVP candidate was already dealing with a torn ligament in his right thumb and postponed surgery on that until the offseason. He has now suffered at least one major injury in five straight postseasons.

“It’s whatever. I’m Catholic, I believe in God, I always put it in his hands,” Embiid said after Game 4 of the Raptors series. “That’s why when I go out there I don’t focus on what can happen or what’s going to happen. I just go out there hoping for the best and trust in him [God].”

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Predicting Possible Timeline for Embiid’s Return

The Sixers won’t put a timeline on Embiid’s recovery, but it is telling they aren’t ready to rule him out for the rest of the playoffs. That would seem to indicate he could return at some point. Best case scenario? Embiid would be back in time for the NBA Finals.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, orbital fractures can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to heal and that all depends on the severity: orbital rim fracture, blowout fractures, direct orbital floor fracture. The Sixers haven’t stated which kind of fracture it is.

There is a precedent with Embiid who fractured his orbital bone back in 2018 and missed 22 days. He elected for surgery on his eye socket that time and wore a protective mask when he returned.

According to Jason Dumas, Embiid suffered a “clean break” in his face when Siakam’s elbow came crashing down. He thought a flagrant should have been called on the play. Dumas wrote, via sources: “Siakam f***** him up, it was totally unwarranted and flagrant. Not sure how long he will be out or any additional information at this second.”


Siakam Apologized for Elbow to the Face

Siakam apologized to Embiid after accidentally hitting him in the face in Game 6. The immediate call on the court was a defensive foul on Embiid, then Doc Rivers asked for a review and Siakam got charged with an offensive foul.  The Raptors star said it wasn’t his intention to injure him when speaking to reporters in his post-game press conference.

“I feel awful I hit his face. I was trying to make a move,” Siakam said, via Sportsnet. “Obviously, I apologized to him after that. It was definitely not my intention.”

Siakam also downplayed any hostility over Embiid’s airplane celebration. The two natives of Cameroon don’t have a previous history of beef or hatred toward one another, although Siakam did call out Embiid for “fake toughness” earlier in the playoffs.

“If that’s how he decides to celebrate, who am I to tell him not to? It is what it is,” Siakam said. “We lost. That’s it.”

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