Joel Embiid wants to play. He is desperate to play. He had to watch in agony as his Sixers faltered in Game 2 against the Heat from the sideline.
In pregame warm ups he hit three-pointer after three-pointer — some wearing his new mask, and some not. He was cleared from the NBA's concussion protocal but still not medically cleared to play, as he works back into playing shape from surgery on his eye socket a few weeks ago.
And, as Game 3 approaches Thursday in Miami with the series tied at one game apiece, Embiid's status is still up in the air.
"It's still moving forward," Brown said before the Sixers' practice on Tuesday afternoon. "What I can say is there is a very unified effort with his representation and the people around him. With the people that did the operation, the doctors, with our medical staff, with the team, with me, the coaching staff. We're all doing this. There's a unified sort of spirit and line of communication."
Embiid posted on his Instagram story yesterday some frustration and, potentially disagreement with coach Brown about his being on the same page.
And, uh, Joel apparently feels the same way. pic.twitter.com/QimkcCPyd4— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) April 17, 2018
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By Embiid's own words, he is "F***ing sick and tired of being babied." Which means he is ready to return.
But in practice, Embiid didn't get cleared for full contact Tuesday. He's on the right track — but he's not in game shape.
If he is in the line up Thursday in South Florida is anyone's guess, but you can be sure that the man himself will likely be doing some lobbying to help Philadelphia avoid falling into a 2-1 deficit.