Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said he’s not concerned about center Joel Embiid after he left the team’s March 22 win over the Chicago Bulls with calf tightness — even if some fans were panicked over his mysterious absence.
As CBS Sports noted, Embiid didn’t return after halftime of the 116-91 blowout win. The Sixers later said that Embiid would not return as the game as it was already well in hand.
Though the MVP candidate had an efficient night — scoring 12 points with seven rebounds and seven assists in just over 16 minutes — his unexplained absence caused some concern among fans and consternation with reporters.
“Very strange to have gone nearly an entire quarter and have no update on Joel Embiid, who didn’t come out with the team to start the 3rd quarter,” tweeted Sixers reporter Derek Bodner. “The Sixers are up 91-69 with 2:31 left in the 3rd, so they might not need him, but fans are understandably a bit on edge.”
After the game, Rivers said Embiid was not expected to lose any time.
“Not much, not at all really,” Rivers said when asked if he was worried about the injury, via Philly Voice reporter Kyle Neubeck. “I think he’ll be ready for next game…whenever you hear calf you just say, that’s it. But not concerned.”
Sixers Get Revenge After Double Overtime Loss
The Sixers were out for revenge against the Bulls, who on Monday had taken down the Sixers 109-105 in double overtime. The loss broke Philadelphia’s eight-game winning streak, but the Sixers responded quickly in Wednesday’s game.
Even though guard James Harden was sitting out while nursing a sore Achilles, the Sixers started the game on a 23-1 run while Tyrese Maxey scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half. The Sixers took a 28-point lead into halftime, though the bounce-back performance quickly turned sour as Embiid didn’t return after halftime.
The Sixers later provided an update that Embiid would not return “because of the score,” but reporter Dave Early of Liberty Ballers called out the team for the unnecessary drama.
“That’s good news. But holy moly what a wacky and unnecessary way to scratch a superstar,” he tweeted.
Immediate Future Still Uncertain for James Harden
While Rivers said he was not concerned about the long-term outlook for Embiid, he held back on saying definitively whether Harden would play in Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.
Neubeck of the Philly Voice wrote that Harden’s injury could put the Sixers in a predicament, as the team is still contending for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference but would need a strong finish to catch the Boston Celtics. Harden was a key part of the team’s eight-game winning streak, as he averaged 20.3 points, 11.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds in the month of March.
“A knock for Harden puts the Sixers in an interesting predicament down the stretch,” Neubeck wrote, adding, “Securing at least the No. 2 seed could have an outsized impact on their ability to make it out of the second round — with the Celtics tailing off late in the year, homecourt against Boston could be the difference between beating the Celtics and falling in the same spot as in years past.”