The last time the Houston Rockets saw Joel Embiid on a basketball court, it happened to be the last time the NBA saw the big man play last season.
Embiid, it was soon discovered, was playing with a torn meniscus in his left knee. His 32 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks that night in a 123-118 loss to the Rockets showed the transcendent talent that Embiid possesses. But the injury showed just how quickly his talent can be put on the shelf and, whether he wants to admit it or not, how fragile his body has proven to be.
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In Wednesday’s crushing 105-104 loss to the Rockets, Embiid took a hard fall on a questionable goaltending call late in the fourth quarter. He flipped over the top of Rockets guard James Harden and came crashing to the floor. Following the game, fellow teammates Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell showed concern regarding the play, but Embiid was quick to downplay the fall.
“Everybody’s got to stop being scared,” Embiid said. “I’m not made of glass.”
But from a fans perspective, it’s hard not to be scared. After all, Embiid spent the first two seasons of his career on the sidelines due to multiple surgeries on his right foot. When he was finally available to play in the 2016-17 campaign, he appeared in just 31 games before having meniscus surgery.
Even when healthy, Embiid will continue to be on a minute restriction until he can proves he can get through an entire season at full-strength. Embiid has played in four of the Sixers’ five games this season, averaging 27 minutes per game. Don’t expect him to play during back-to-backs this year, as evidenced by his one game missed so far this season.
In the game he did miss against the Raptors, the Sixers were blown out to the tune of 128-94, a 34-point loss. In the games he has played, the Sixers have just a -1.25 point differential.
That alone shows the importance of having Embiid in the lineup. His presence can completely alter a basketball game. While Philadelphia loves to see a player go above and beyond to hustle for loose balls, posterize an opponent at the rim or swat an opponent’s shot into the rafters, the city would much rather have their team at full-strength, even if it means less flashiness on the court.
At 7-foot-2, Embiid has to play smarter and really pick and choose his battles. His falls are longer and harder than the average player and his legs bear the weight of “The Process”. The sooner he realizes this and decides to remove himself from harmful situations, the sooner the organization will come to competing for an NBA title in South Philadelphia.
Not being made of glass was an accurate statement by Embiid. The city’s just hoping to not add any more scars.