We have more annoying Sixers news!
The latest from Shams Charania of FanDuel TV: “[Joel Embiid] didn’t enter the injury report, I’m told, until fifteen minutes before tip off [vs. Denver] and for sure that’s something that the league will have to review.”
"[Joel Embiid] didn't enter the injury report, I'm told, until fifteen minutes before tip off, and for sure that's something that the league will have to review."@ShamsCharania on Embiid sitting out against the Nuggets.— Run It Back (@RunItBackFDTV) January 29, 2024
: https://t.co/wdT8I0ST8g pic.twitter.com/i1s0i6jzzU
Let’s recap what happened
Many fans were looking forward to a clash of the titans when Joel Embiid’s Sixers hit the road to tackle Nikola Jokic and the defending champs, the Denver Nuggets. But of course, that never happened.
Embiid was not listed on the team’s official injury report going into the nationally televised ABC matchup in Colorado. So we figured he’d be suiting up, even if he didn’t have all of the help he’d probably need.
Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington and Mo Bamba, who were listed, were all eventually ruled out in time to avoid any controversy.
But the team apparently didn’t love the way Embiid was moving in pregame warmups, added him to the report, and made a true game-time decision to hold him out, just minutes before the scheduled 5:30 EST game.
Joel Embiid ruled out Saturday.— Underdog NBA (@Underdog__NBA) January 27, 2024
That update came almost an hour-and-a-half after the news that Maxey couldn’t go with his sore ankle.
Tyrese Maxey (ankle) ruled out Saturday.— Underdog NBA (@Underdog__NBA) January 27, 2024
The skeleton crew Sixers hung tight but eventually fell to the champs, as X roasted Joel for “ducking” Joker.
So the simple analysis is this: Embiid actually was hurt and should have absolutely been listed on that injury report. If you want to stop there, you’ll capture the gist, sure, but some of you may be a bit obsessive like us at LB and need more context.
So it makes sense that the NBA, who has made a concerted effort to avoid scenarios like these recently — where stars miss nationally televised road games which offer opposing fan bases a chance to finally see them in action live— would investigate and perhaps fine the Sixers.
So what the heck happened?
Was he healthy but ducking Joker?
This one is an easy, no:
The Sixers have already bungled the Joel Embiid injury management situation earlier this season. So making some much-needed corrections now shouldn’t be regarded as a bad thing at all. Holding Jo out of that game was absolutely the right call.
Could he have played?
This one might be controversial. Some close to the situation might tell you if he could have been out there he totes would have been.
But I lean the other way and say: this is probably an easy “yes, if and only if it were a crucial seeding or playoff game.”
We’ve seen this dude suit up with a broken eye-socket and two torn ligaments in his hands in 2022 vs. the Miami Heat. We’ve seen him play through meniscus issues vs. Atlanta, LCL issues vs. Boston, and more.
Had this been a postseason matchup, I think it’s safe to say Embiid would have been given a green light to limp his way through another tough battle and let the chips fall where they may like he does basically every May.
Of course, there’s a chance I’m wrong here, and he truly could not have played in which case the team likely has much, much bigger concerns than any league investigations (e.g. what will the MRI say? Why did he keep playing on it at all vs. Pacers?)
Should he have played vs. Denver?
This one is also an easy one: no.
Embiid, who has been banged up recently — dealing with both ankle and knee issues — appeared to hurt (or aggravate) his knee in a game vs. the Indiana Pacers, as mentioned, last week.
Immediately, many of us die-hard fans saw the next 72 hours of our basketball lives flash before our eyes.
Here’s a text I received from a buddy of mine on our group chain from the moment Jo looked like he tweaked the leg in a collision with Pacers’ Myles Turner last Thursday:
The Buddies on the text chain sniffed it out Thursday ♂️ pic.twitter.com/1QdNpdhNb1— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) January 27, 2024
So we braced ourselves for him to miss the Nuggets game, almost instantaneously, even while Joel labored around on the leg for another futile handful of minutes in a loss.
So of course, we’d much rather he sit that game out and try to nip this knee thing in the bud now before it becomes an even bigger issue.
So what the heck happened then?
This one is probably the most difficult question to answer. If I had to venture a mostly uninformed guess, I’d speculate something along the following... here’s my Netflix docuseries screenplay synopsis:
DuckingGate: the story of Process vs. Joker that wasn’t to be
Joel knew he wasn’t 100 percent after Indiana, but who is at this time of year? All players have some bumps and bruises from the rocky road that is the NBA regular season grind. Plus, somehow or other, he always misses this game Vs. Joker in Denver with injury, and if he even pops up on that injury report ahead of the match he’ll get trolled mercilessly by his haters. So feeling well enough to go, he insisted to team medical staff he was fine, and the team bought it. I mean, the dude was very, very recently dealing with knee swelling, and still dropped 70 points vs. Victor Wembanyama. Doesn’t he deserve some benefit of the doubt when he says he’s ‘good to go?’
But a long flight to the mountains, maybe some altitude adjustment, learning that all of Tyrese Maxey, De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, Robert Covington, and Mo Bamba couldn’t go, that began to change the calculus for the team medical staff, who saw a golden opportunity to get Joel some much-needed rest. So they popped him on the injury report 15 minutes before gametime, only after they’d ruled out Maxey and Harris, and began to scrutinize Jo’s pregame warmup more closely than they might have otherwise, eventually making the very wise decision to hold him out... even knowing that it would likely mean pleading a mea culpa with their injury report bungles.
I won’t hold my breath for Netflix to call, but that’s the best I got.
Yes, the Sixers should have put Embiid on the injury report. Yes, they bungled their injury management schedule again. It’s pretty silly for them to not have done so, the dude is an absolute fixture on that injury report. He’s lived on it while playing at an MVP-candidate level for nearly half a decade. So why wasn’t he on it this time, just ‘cause it was Joker!? On the other hand, even if he could have labored his way through the rivalry match fans wanted to see, the team did the right thing holding him out. Take the fine out of Josh Harris’ pockets and tip your cap.
The Sixers avoided a very big mistake (playing Joel) after initially making a smaller mistake (not listing him).