The Sixers have announced Joel Embiid is out for the season with ailments in his left knee, as a precautionary measure to protect against his health down the line.
76ers PR released the following statement with information from the Sixers’ Co-Chief of Sports Medicine and GM Bryan Colangelo:
As previously announced, Sixers center Joel Embiid underwent an MRI on his left knee Monday afternoon, allowing the team's medical staff an opportunity to provide an update on the results.
‘The assessment of Monday's follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid's left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan,’ said Sixers Chief Medical Director and Co-Chief of Sports Medicine Orthopedics at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center Dr. Jonathan Glashow. ‘We will continue to work with leading specialists to gather additional information through clinical examination and sequential testing to determine the best course of action and next steps.’
Embiid’s status is changed from out indefinitely to out for the remainder of this season.
‘Our primary objective and focus remains to protect his long-term health and ability to perform on the basketball court,’ said Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo. ‘As our medical team and performance staff continue their diligence in the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of Joel's injury, we will provide any pertinent updates when available.’
While this isn’t necessarily unexpected, the news on Embiid’s meniscus is really troubling. The team has changed its tune from just a few weeks ago, when the meniscus was framed as almost a non-concern compared to the bone bruise.
"A lot of players do play with minor tears. The tear doesn't seem to be the source of the pain," said Colangelo at the time, shortly after Derek Bodner scooped the team on the meniscus tear. "This is not thought to be a serious injury but a complicated injury."
If the meniscus tear is in fact getting worse, the prudent move would likely be to get surgery as soon as possible. Giving Embiid the proper amount of time to get his legs under him in the offseason — particularly after the franchise continues to deal with lingering pain in Jahlil Okafor’s knee following a meniscus operation — is pivotal.
Speaking of Okafor, this marks the second straight year the medical team looks lost in the woods on a meniscus issue. Okafor missed his first game of an extended absence on February 28th of last season, with the team initially sitting him for what was deemed a shin problem. Between then and March 11th, Okafor’s problem had evolved to a meniscus tear, and he underwent season-ending surgery on March 22nd.
The seriousness of Embiid’s injury also makes the team’s handling of it look even worse. Playing him in the national TV game against the Houston Rockets, brilliant as he was in the game, is even more of a head-scratcher now. If the medical staff didn’t pick up on how serious the ailment was or could be, it’s incompetence, and if the team let him play despite well-voiced concerns from their medical team, it’s arrogance and recklessness.
This is a real downer to end one of the most exciting rookie seasons in recent memory. Embiid finishes his season with jaw-dropping numbers in limited minutes; the final per-36 line is 28.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, and three assists with 46.6/36.7/78.3 shooting splits. He was one of the most impactful players in the league when he was able to suit up.
How long he can stay on the court remains in doubt. The Sixers learned a lot about just how good Embiid is this season, but they may never know how much they can rely on him to anchor the franchise.