Woj: Joel Embiid is nearing his return, ‘expected to play this week’

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Injured Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid stands during a timeout in the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday, March 29, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

After two months of laboring through the NBA season without their superstar, the Philadelphia 76ers may at last be coming into the light that has taunted them at the end of the tunnel. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Joel Embiid is nearing his return to the hardwood and even is “expected to play this week.”

The Sixers will face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, April 2, the Heat in Miami on April 4, and the Grizzlies in Memphis on April 6th. While there is no official word on which game will feature Embiid’s return, the door has not been closed on Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia. Though it certainly wouldn’t decide his return, being able to do so on his home court in front of the home crowd is certainly a plus.

As Wojnarowski noted, Embiid has not played since Jan. 30, missing two months after suffering a torn meniscus and having the damaged portion surgically removed on Feb. 6. Since then, the Sixers have gone an uninspiring 11-18 and have fallen all the way to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

There are now just seven games left this season, and while the Sixers will be unable to reclaim their standing as a top-three seed in the East, they will have the opportunity to build some momentum ahead of their likely appearance in the NBA play-in tournament.

If Philadelphia finishes the season as either the seventh seed or eighth seed, they will play the other team in those respective seeds. The winner of that game will take the seventh seed and face the eighth seed, currently the Milwaukee Bucks, in a first-round matchup.

The return of the reigning MVP is no small matter for the Sixers, and to have seven games, though he likely will not play in every single match, to work on his conditioning is even a bit better than previously expected.

Embiid’s return was a non-negotiable in terms of the Sixers being a competitive playoff team, but it won’t be enough just to have him; he will have to be some semblance close to his MVP-caliber self. Hopefully, with a handful of games left to work him back into shape, Embiid will be able to feel a bit more like himself come the postseason. At the very least, this is a great way to start the month of April, and thankfully not a Fool’s Day joke.

Before suffering his meniscus injury, Joel Embiid averaged 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on the season.