The start of February was nothing if not a mixed bag for the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans. Heading into the new month, Sixers’ star Joel Embiid suffered yet another injury to his left knee after Jonothan Kuminga landed on him diving for a loose ball.
Just ahead of the much-anticipated announcement that Sixers’ rising star Tyrese Maxey had made the 2023-24 NBA All-Star team, it was very coincidentally announced that an MRI following Tuesday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors revealed an injury to the lateral meniscus in Joel Embiid’s left knee.
While this is not the All Is Lost Moment that many were bracing themselves for, this is still far from encouraging news. The degree of the injury has yet to be revealed by the team, but traditionally, the expectation for recovery after meniscus surgery, even in severe cases, is four to eight weeks.
Unlike certain other lower body tears, surgery on a torn meniscus can occur without a weighting period for swelling to subside. If Embiid’s meniscus is truly torn, and if he does opt for surgery, eight weeks would imply a potential return at the end of March, leaving roughly ten games left in the regular season.
There are many questions now facing the Sixers. The first, of course, surrounds the timetable around Embiid’s absence. Thereafter, the implications this injury could have could have rippling effects on the decisions the team makes at the trade deadline.
The most recent reports surrounding the team’s projected deadline moves already favored the notion of a less-than-flashy affair for the Sixers. Embiid’s injury may only make that outcome even more likely. Of course, the Sixers could aim to add a contributor on a palatable multi-year deal, but the desire to save and possibly even stockpile assets ahead of next season may ultimately prove too tempting, considering the circumstances.
The amount of games that Joel Embiid has already missed this season has been a major storyline in the NBA for quite some time. Through 34 games, Embiid has enjoyed a historical season, one that made him the favorite to become the NBA’s MVP for the 2023-24 season.
Thanks to the league’s new 65-game rule, Embiid must play in at least 65 games in order to qualify for the following awards: MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, the All-NBA teams, and the All-Defensive teams. With that in mind, many counted down each game missed. With this latest news, it seems incredibly likely, if not certain, that Embiid will be ineligible in this year’s MVP race.
However, that is far from the top-shelf issue for the Sixers, as the team sits precariously in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference; Embiid’s injury could hardly come at a worse time, save for shortly ahead of the playoffs, of course. The Knicks and Cavaliers are both in the midst of winning streaks, while the Sixers have lost four straight.
If Philadephia does not act by the deadline and a lengthy recovery is in store for Joel Embiid, they may find this season slipping away before it ever truly begins.