After confusion around Joel Embiid’s knee injury earlier in the day, the reigning MVP is officially listed as out for Friday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.
This will be the third straight game Embiid has missed. He injured his left knee in the Sixers’ blowout loss to the Knicks last Friday and has been dealing with swelling ever since. This will already be the 10th game the star center has missed this season.
The Sixers will also be without Robert Covington, who is dealing with swelling in his left knee as well. The veteran wing will miss his fifth straight game. He’s also been dealing with an illness.
As a reminder, players have to play in at least 65 games to qualify for awards like MVP and to make All-NBA teams. That means Embiid can only miss seven of the team’s remaining 45 games this season.
Simply put: without Embiid, the Sixers have been a mess this season. They’re 2-7 when the big fella sits and some of those losses have been downright ugly. While they had every chance to beat the Hawks in Atlanta Wednesday night, Nick Nurse not being able to rely on any of his reserve centers is troubling. It seems evident that Nurse has at times lost trust in both Paul Reed and Mo Bamba. Using veteran Marcus Morris, Sr. can help stretch the floor, but severely hurts the Sixers’ defense.
That trio faces a difficult challenge Friday with three-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis in town. If they struggled against the likes of Bruno Fernando, they’re going to have their hands full with Sabonis. The biggest concern will be rebounding: Sabonis was last year’s rebounding champ and leads the league again this season.
While Embiid missing another game is discouraging, reporting earlier on Thursday suggested the severity of his knee injury might be worse than it appears. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who is as plugged into all things Embiid as anyone, made reference to his playoff injury — a sprained LCL in his left knee — during an appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast. Shelburne later clarified on Twitter that the current issue is unrelated, but at this point, every injury Embiid suffers feels monumental.
Following their matchup against the Kings, the Sixers will be off on Saturday and Sunday. While that seems like good news for Embiid’s achy knee, the team then has a difficult home back-to-back. They take on the Houston Rockets on Monday (a 1 p.m. matinee on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
The Sixers’ season started off with such great vibes and positivity despite the James Harden drama. But yet again, an injury to Embiid dampens the mood and casts doubt on how far the Sixers can go.