Joel Embiid will not suit up for this afternoon’s Sixers game against the Indiana Pacers due to left knee soreness, per the NBA’s injury report. This sounds like a load management situation rather than anything to be concerned about long term. After today’s game, the Sixers do not play again until this Friday’s match up with the Houston Rockets, which would give Embiid nearly a week’s worth of rest (the Sixers/Joel last played on Saturday, Dec. 28th).
While we can acknowledge the pros of Embiid resting this afternoon, there’s a downside as well. For starters, the Pacers are just a game behind the Sixers in the East, meaning a Pacers win knots the two in the standings. There’s plenty of time to make up a December loss, but it would be encouraging to see this team at full strength and execute against a possible playoff opponent. The other factor is that — and don’t get me wrong, I understand that Jo’s health is paramount — hundreds of Sixers fans have flown out to attend today’s game with the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Podcast. That’s a tough break considering they’ve flown all the way to Indianapolis to bring in the New Year.
Finally there’s this: while this seems like a precautionary measure (which is really just an assumption), this comes immediately on the heels of Embiid playing in a back-to-back. It’s certainly possible this was all part of a plan to get Embiid an extended break. It’s also possible Embiid otherwise fully intended to play today until his knee flared up from stress without enough rest. In any event, the Sixers are wise to get Jo back to full health.