The Sixers are 0-2, and in their home opener, their back-to-back runner-up MVP candidate got a chorus of boos from the notoriously tough Philly faithful. Embiid looked like he was pressing in both games vs. the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
According to Noah Levick, his head coach has an explanation for at least some of the big man’s early season woes:
Doc Rivers said Joel Embiid had plantar fasciitis this offseason, which has contributed to his conditioning not being at its best early in the year.— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 21, 2022
Rivers said Embiid isn’t bothered by that now, that he expects him to get into better shape and a better rhythm.
Joel was an absolute force of nature through the 2021-2022 regular season and first three games of the playoffs. But a thumb, then face and head injuries reallllly slowed him down the rest of the way. The Sixers may have beaten the Miami Heat with a healthy Joel and advanced to the final four. Instead, they didn’t stand a chance.
He needed surgery on fingers of each hand last summer. His fractured orbital bone healed naturally. But apparently, he dealt with some nagging heel pain this offseason, and maybe that is why he has looked a bit off. Or as Rivers explains it, that issue has resolved, but it cost him his conditioning.
The good news is that Rivers says the issue is behind him. The bad news is that we probably wouldn’t have even learned about this if it truly was fully behind him. We’ll see how he improves as he “plays himself into shape” or whatever.
Through two losses, The Process is averaging 20.5 ppg, 13.5 rebounds, 4 dimes, 5 turnovers, and shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor. It’s a far cry from the last healthy version of Embiid we saw vs. Toronto during the first round last season.
He’s trying to do way too much, even while struggling and other teammates are thriving. Deferring a bit more, especially with James Harden going nuclear, and Joel regains his wind, would have been the A+ move last night.
I also wonder why, if the Sixers knew this was an issue, they called certain isolation plays for Embiid. He was 0 of 7 in the second half with three turnovers, and Harden was on absolute fire. But for the final bucket, after a timeout, they rode Joel, who they knew didn’t have his wind. A pick-and-roll with The Beard was probably the best move. If Harden hit Joel on a roll, there may have been a much easier shot.
Kind of a wild play call given the context of this game. You know they’re gonna double hard banking on Joel to take a crazy contested shot or make a crazy pass. Let Harden work a screen… pic.twitter.com/LcIUSehA7M— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) October 21, 2022
As always, we wish nothing but the best for Joel health wise. If he’s not quite right, the team needs to expedite that load management program they should have in store, because they’re going nowhere fast if he’s not healthy come April.