Defending NBA MVP Joel Embiid injured his left knee in the final minutes of the Philadelphia 76ers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night at Chase Center.
With just over four minutes left, Embiid was stripped by Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga while backing up Draymond Green. As Embiid dove for the loose ball, Kuminga dove as well and landed on Embiid’s left leg, just below the center’s knee.
Embiid immediately grabbed his knee in visible agony before walking off the court under his own power. He did not re-enter the game and Philadelphia lost 119-107. Embiid scored 14 points in 30 minutes before leaving.
“So obviously he went down, so they’re going to do an MRI tonight or tomorrow,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. Nurse added that the injury is unrelated to what has kept Embiid out recently.
In the first half against Golden State, Embiid cautiously walked to the locker room with a bandage on his knee after going 1 for 7 in 10 minutes in the first quarter.
On Saturday, Embiid was scratched late for the 76ers’ game against the Denver Nuggets. After going through his usual pregame warmup, Nurse said the team’s medical staff “just didn’t like what they saw” and decided it was safer to sit Embiid for the long-awaited matchup against Nikola Jokić.
Throughout that game, Embiid was seen wearing a large bandage around his left knee. Embiid also missed the 76ers’ next game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
After Tuesday night’s game, Nurse said the training staff felt comfortable clearing Embiid to play against the Warriors and that the center had felt good throughout the game.
Embiid has missed 12 games total this season and is six absences away from being ineligible for postseason awards. The NBA instituted a new rule ahead of the 2023-24 season that a player must appear in 65 games and log at least 20 minutes in those appearances to qualify for the MVP award and selection on All-NBA teams.
How bad is this for Embiid and the Sixers?
Like the nurse said, the MRI will tell everything. But in talking to players and coaches, there was a strong feeling that Embiid would have to miss at least a few games as a result of the injury. However, there was no immediate concern that this was something much more serious. However, again, that part won’t be clear until the MRI results are back.
The problem for the Sixers is that they have lost four straight games and in the process fell to fifth place in the East. They have been without their rising star guard, Tyrese Maxey, for three of those games due to an ankle injury. Nurse said before the Warriors game that the 23-year-old was likely to play Thursday at Utah. If Embiid misses an extended amount of time, then all the positivity that came with his fantastic start could quickly disappear.
As for Embiid, this injury risks taking him out of the MVP conversation before we even get to the All-Star break. And as some of his teammates later shared, that aspect of the situation is generating widespread disapproval in Sixers circles. — Sam Amick, senior NBA writer
Was the 65-game rule a mistake?
That sentiment seemed to be the consensus in the 76ers locker room after the game. As the Sixers’ Paul Reed and Kelly Oubre discussed, the pressure that has come with the league’s new rule could force NBA stars to play when they shouldn’t.
Only Embiid can say if that was the case here, but the 29-year-old has been outspoken about his desire to be MVP in years past and it’s safe to assume that his desire to defend his Michael Jordan trophy is strong this time.
“I didn’t sign up for that (65-game rule),” Reed said. “I don’t remember signing any paperwork, you know what I mean? I guess the union approved it. To be honest, they probably had no choice. Yes, it’s hard. It adds a lot of pressure to the players. We were just talking about that. A lot of pressure, especially guys like (Embiid) who are trying to get the MVP again.”
Add in the fact that Embiid was roundly ridiculed after his last absence in Denver, and there’s a level of scrutiny that worries his teammates.
“(Are there people) pressuring him to force himself to be great when he’s 300 pounds and seven-foot-five?” said Oubre, who exaggerated Embiid’s listed size of 7-foot-280. “Come on bro. Yes, he has to do what he has to do. I think this year people will really understand that throughout his career he’s had to make sure his body is okay. This is like NASCAR, right? If your cars don’t run and your mechanics aren’t able to do the work before the race, what can they do? They can not run.
“These are our bodies. Our body is our car and we have to treat it with respect. He’s 350 pounds, bro. So you know, I’m praying for him that he recovers soon, so that he can come and give himself the best chance. But at the end of the day that’s not important. His body and his career are the most important thing.” — amick
Amick: Joel Embiid deserved better and NBA’s 65-game rule is flawed
(Photo: Neville E. Guard / USA Today)