The Philadelphia 76ers have provided a key update on their top two stars, Joel Embiid and James Harden, ahead of a grueling road trip that begins in Golden State.
According to the Sixers injury report, Joel Embiid is questionable with right calf tightness and James Harden is questionable with Achilles soreness.
Joel Embiid (right calf tightness), James Harden (Achilles soreness), and Jalen McDaniels (hip soreness) are all questionable for Friday’s game against the Warriors.— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) March 23, 2023
PJ Tucker isn’t listed.
Jalen McDaniels (hip soreness) is on there as well.
Harden first popped up on the injury report with heel soreness back in mid-January. He missed a pair of games, both the second of back-to-backs in Minnesota and Indiana with what we assume is the same issue to the left heel/Achilles tendon.
While the NBA’s current leader in assists per game has played some of his best ball in the uniform over the same last few months, he seemed far more limited on Monday in a double overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. Harden would log 47 minutes in total, and over 30 minutes on the ailment after he was spotted wincing in pain. He also deferred point guard duties to other players as the second half progressed. It was obvious something was not right. Normally the Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll is completely unstoppable. That night, it wasn’t even part of their offense down the home stretch.
“[Doc] Rivers said he also expects Harden to play against the Warriors, ‘but I can’t guarantee” that he will be ready,” the team’s head coach said, that update coming after the Sixers blew out the Bulls on Wednesday, via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
ORD ➡️ SFO— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) March 23, 2023
ICYMI: The dispatch from Chicago, where the Sixers clinched another dominant win but Joel Embiid did not play in the second half because of mild calf tightness https://t.co/wXrJwQ3mir
As for Embiid, here is what Mizell wrote following Wednesday’s win over the Bulls:
“Embiid, meanwhile, did not play in the second half — or join his team on the bench — because of right calf tightness he said he initially felt during Monday’s loss and that flared up again Wednesday. Embiid and coach Doc Rivers described the MVP contender’s second-half absence as “precautionary,” and expressed optimism that he will be able to return as soon as Friday’s game at the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.....
Like I always say, it’s all about the playoffs,” said Embiid, adding that he received treatment in the visitors’ locker room during the second half. “Trying to make sure that I get there healthy. We’re just going to see how it goes the next few days. ... If it feels good, of course I want to play. But if it’s not right, then we’re going to figure out.”
So, getting the update that both players are “questionable,” honestly feels like a win right now to me.
It wouldn’t have been surprising to hear one was doubtful, or ruled out, the way things played out. The day after the team is in Golden State, they have their second-of-a-back-to-back battle in Phoenix, where Deandre Ayton (hip) and Kevin Durant (ankle) have already been ruled out.
A more conservative approach would be to rest both Embiid and Harden on Friday, in hopes to get them right for that more winnable battle. The Suns have lost five of their last six overall, whereas the Warriors have won 12 of their last 13 at home.
Winning the first one vs. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be really tough out by The Bay, even if everyone is 100 percent. The second one, at least on paper, feels more achievable. But you never want to sleep on Chris Paul and Devin Booker at home.
For now, we’ll take a positive update where we can get one. And given the context, Harden retreating into a shell Monday then missing Wednesday, Embiid mysteriously vanishing for the second half in Chicago, we’ll take this.