The 76ers will only go as far as Joel Embiid takes them.
If the 7-foot-2 franchise cornerstone continues his hard crashes to the floor, they won’t be going to the playoffs.
Many fans on Twitter noted how much they like Embiid’s hustle and determination. No argument.
But Embiid already is a question mark on back-to-backs and other games as well. He has missed nine of 36 games this season. Do the math – that’s 25 percent of the team’s games.
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In a game the Sixers won Monday night at Phoenix, Embiid suffered a sprained right hand after a rough fall in a collision with Devin Booker. He appeared to be wincing the rest of the game, though X-rays did come out negative.
Embiid could have easily broken his hand and missed six-to-eight weeks. If that had occurred, the Sixers’ playoff chances would have likely disappeared. It’s not a 100 percent certainty anyway if he plays much of the season. Without their big man, forget it. He means that much to this franchise.
Ben Simmons and Dario Saric and JJ Redick are vital pieces. Embiid is the whole key. That’s not exactly a news flash.
Crashing to the floor has been a common occurrence for Embiid. It happens at least once, if not more, in most games.
The passion is evident and he needs to play with emotion. Clearly, it motivates him.
In the end, the Sixers won their second in a row on the road after a victory the night before in Denver. After falling four games below .500, they inched back upward at 17-19.
But Embiid didn’t take one single shot after the injury. He was far less effective. He wants to push through and play and that’s admirable. He has to be more responsible, a word used often by head coach Brett Brown.
This is a long term project in Philadelphia despite some viewing it otherwise. This team isn’t going to the NBA Finals this season. Or next season.
There are so many layers to this rebuild and it all hinges on Embiid.
He needs what seems to be daily treatment on his balky back. Brown is asked daily about Embiid’s health because it is such a question mark. He’s not cleared to play in back-to-back games and there’s no timetable as to when that might change.
“The endgame is to make him a normal member of a team,” Brown told reporters in Portland. “He’s amazing to date with the rules and the restrictions, the things that he’s got to go through to play, game day, game night.”
Embiid can help himself by not making an ownership group and an entire fan base cringe every time his body hits the floor with incredible force. That problem is at least solvable.