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Shams: ‘There’s optimism Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid will return tonight in Game 3’

So you’re saying there’s a chance... we get a Joel Embiid Phantom of the Process reprise tonight vs. Jimmy Butler?

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Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat - Game Four

Hanging on every possible update on this situation, we learned earlier Friday that Joel Embiid has officially cleared concussion protocol, after sustaining a vicious elbow to the face from Raptors forward Pascal Siakam back on April 28. On Thursday the team listed their MVP candidate as “out” because he still hadn’t cleared that vital hurdle. Philadelphia trails 2-0 vs. the Miami Heat after dropping both road games, playing without the best player in the entire series.

Joel did give social media detectives something to be hopeful about when he made one of his oh nothing, I’m just talking about soccer double-meaning tweets.

The comeback.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Friday Embiid cleared concussion protocol, while other reports noted he was still listed as out.

And then, there’s now “optimism for his return,” per another key Twitter update from Shams:

So he has passed the biggest immediate hurdle barring him from playing. And was even upgraded to “doubtful” on the injury report:

So it feels pretty fluid and the team may be doing all they can to temper expectations in the event he cannot suit up, despite optimism. At least we’ve got the upgrade to doubt, and resumed the privilege apparently of worrying about the torn thumb. We hadn’t even had time to focus on what seemed like a huge problem with the hand last series once we learned about the face injury.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN provided an update earlier this morning:

“It’s that Embiid was tweeting at all after experiencing four days of concussion symptoms: sensitivity to light, dizziness and headaches that, sources close to the situation told ESPN, made it difficult to watch anything on his phone or television.

On Wednesday though, sources said Embiid was able to not only watch Real Madrid’s win on his phone, but FaceTime with Sixers coach Rivers and catch his team’s 119-103 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2, which dropped them into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series.”

With the concussion hurdle cleared, it sounds like it will be up to Joel to let the team know that the mask, which was designed for him this week, feels comfortable enough to play in, protecting that fractured right orbital bone. We’ve heard the team does not believe that will require surgery. So hopefully he can play without further impacting a scary injury.

Fractured orbital bones can lead to things like double-vision and a “sinking” of the eye in its socket as we had to learn about back in 2018.

Shelburne continues:

“To play with this orbital fracture he’ll need to wear a protective mask, which has been custom-made this week to distribute the force of any blows he might take in the game away from the exact spot on his bone that has been fractured. He will not likely need to wear goggles, as he did in 2018, sources said.”

So if the doctors and performance staff are satisfied that he can give it a go, and the ball is in Joel’s court, well you know he’s going to do all he can to suit up. As Shams notes, he’ll need to let them know he feels OK to get the final green light. And it would hypothetically represent a true warrior effort if he plays.

As noted, dude has a torn ligament in his shooting thumb that will need surgery. He hasn’t missed a game with that limiting issue. It took that and a broken face with the concussion to finally knock him out of game action.

It sounds like Embiid pretty much felt right away that something was really wrong:

He fractured his left orbital bone, once while at Kansas (that did not require surgery) and then again as a Sixer in 2018 after a flukey collision with Markelle Fultz. That second one did require a procedure and he had to miss a few weeks before returning to play vs. the Miami Heat in the playoffs with that now iconic mask.

If you’re having some déjà vu you’re not alone. The atmosphere at The Center would be absolutely electric if he can give it a go and help the team climb back into this series. But his long-term health should be the team’s first and second priorities.