Luckily for the Sixers, Joel Embiid had a light night in his return after missing the last three games with what the team described as left foot soreness.
Sure, Embiid poured in 36 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and swatted two shots ... but he needed less than 24 minutes to accomplish that stat line in the Sixers’ blowout win over the lowly and decimated Pistons Tuesday.
Embiid said he felt “better than expected” postgame. How is he able to miss time and come back as dominant as ever?
“It’s been like that my whole career,” Embiid said. “I guess I’m just used to it. I don’t know. Taking care of yourself helps a lot.”
The good news is that Embiid said postgame that the current foot ailment is not related to the plantar fasciitis he suffered over the summer. The bad news is Embiid can’t quite pinpoint if the injury is an aggravation of the foot sprain he suffered against the Timberwolves back on Nov. 19 or something new.
“[It feels like] the one that I had earlier in the year landing on someone’s foot,” Embiid said. “I don’t know if I did the same thing but it’s about the same thing so just have to manage it. Basically go based on pain and stuff.”
Embiid said if the injury was something he suffered during the postseason he’s not sure he would’ve been able to play.
But it didn’t sound like something Embiid is overly concerned about.
“Based on when it happened I don’t think I would have been able to play,” he said. “I’m still not fully [healthy], but that’s just something you just got to manage. Over time it’s gonna be fine. ... I just want to play. Doesn’t matter if I’m hurt or not. If I can walk I want to play. Over the past few seasons, since I got to the league — I missed my first really three seasons. So, I just want to be on the court as much as possible and enjoy it.”
You can certainly understand Embiid’s point of view.
He lost his first two NBA seasons because of a navicular bone fracture. He was limited as a rookie to 31 games because of a torn meniscus — which cost him the Rookie of the Year. He’s dealt with various injuries throughout the years —which have likely cost him a possible MVP award (or two) and the potential for longer postseason runs.
But the Sixers’ success hinges almost entirely on the health of Embiid. Surely the team would prefer him to sit if there’s any type of injury, but to Embiid’s credit he has seemingly gotten better at listening to his body and discerning a serious injury from something he can play through.
The Sixers are back at it again Thursday against the Thunder before heading out West for five games. Tuesday night’s contest was just the seventh time their projected starting lineup — Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker, Tobias Harris — took the floor together.
We’ll see if that unit gets more time together to coalesce.