It took exactly one game for questions to arise surrounding Sixers‘ star Joel Embiid’s health, and yet he inexplicably continues to play.
During the Sixers’ season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans, Embiid injured his right knee. The very same knee that had (and may still have) a torn meniscus late last season. And yes, the same knee that Embiid did NOT have surgery on this offseason.
He hasn’t looked like himself all season, and every day it becomes more and more clear that this knee is bothering him. To the point that Embiid alleged told Ramona Shelburne that he had trouble walking after the Pelicans game.
Now, Embiid played a full game of basketball against the Brooklyn Nets two days after the Pelicans game, so someone (likely Embiid) is overexaggerating, but regardless, there’s a clear issue present. Joel Embiid should not be playing through the pain this early in the season.
It’s beyond irresponsible to risk further injury to your star by playing him in meaningless games, but that’s pretty much par for the course for this organization. From the top-down, this franchise has overvalued regular-season wins while other teams (like the Bucks and Nets) are comfortable letting their post-season play do the talking.
Last season the team prioritized winning the top seed in the East, and sure, great, absolutely an accomplishment, but what did it get them? The same result as the previous two seasons, post-season disappointment.
The Sixers are already short Ben Simmons due to his ongoing situation, so it’s understandable they don’t want to be without both of their best players, but that’s not an excuse for such reckless behavior. That’s not to say it’s all on the Sixers organization, as Joel Embiid is just as stubborn, choosing to play and use the injury as an excuse rather than deal with it.
There’s no reason for Embiid to be playing in games against teams of lower-level talent like the Thunder or the Pistons. The Sixers should either sit Embiid for a moderate amount of time or sit him situationally depending on the team they’re playing, preferably the former.
The Eastern Conference is improved this season but not to the point that the Sixers should fear many outside of the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs. It’s far better to let Embiid heal so that he can play come spring.
If the Sixers aren’t careful, they risk losing Embiid when they actually need him.