After suffering a bone bruise injury to his knee, Joel Embiid will return to action after missing three weeks for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Embiid, the second-highest scorer in the NBA, averages 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Without the All-Star, the 76ers still went 6-3, but they gave up ground on the Brooklyn Nets. At the time of the injury, Embiid and the 76ers held the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a one-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets. Three weeks later, the Nets (33-15) only lead by a half-game over the 76ers (32-15). More importantly, the 76ers didn’t let any other teams, like the Milwaukee Bucks (30-17), cath them. The Bucks trail the 76ers by two full games.
Embiid initially suffered his knee injury in a game against the Washington Wizards in DC. When he went down hard, fans and teammates expected the worst, but Embiid limped off the court under his own power. Team doctors initially called it a hyper-extended knee, but Embiid missed time with a bone bruise injury. The team didn’t want to rush him back too early. They need a 100% healthy Embiid for a postseason push.
“Without Joel, we’re down to one center and then a bunch of small guys,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “Then we’ll get back to our normal rotations.”
With Embiid back in the lineup, Rivers and the 76ers will seek to regain the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Adding George Hill
Just before the trade deadline, the 76ers brought in point guard George Hill via a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 76ers added Hill to assist the team in the postseason. Hill logged 127 playoff games over his 13-season career that included stints with seven other teams.
Hill’s still nursing a thumb injury, but the 76ers have a plan in place for the veteran.
“We’re not going to force him back or push him back,” said Rivers. “Even when he’s cleared to play, conditioning is a factor. Hopefully we have a 10-game window or more that he can get acclimated with the team, but I’m very confident that he can fit in.”
Hill averaged 11.8 ppg with the Thunder this season, but he’s excited to join a playoff contender.
The 76ers were linked with numerous guards leading up to the trade deadline, including Buddy Hield, Alec Burks, JJ Redick, and Victor Oladipo.
On Deck: Cleveland, Minnesota
The 76ers play the Cleveland Cavs on Thursday night in Cleveland, which will be their last game without Embiid. On Saturday, the 76ers return home to Philadelphia when the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves come to town. On Sunday, the 76ers will complete a back-to-backer against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although all signs indicated Embiid would return on Saturday, there’s a chance he won’t play until Sunday if the 76ers do not want him to compete on consecutive nights.
Next week, the 76ers hit the road for four games against the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Dallas Mavericks.
The 76ers are +1100 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship as the sixth-highest team on the futures board. The Brooklyn Nets are the consensus favorites to win the title, yet the 76ers trail them by just a half-game.
The 76ers are +475 odds to win the Eastern Conference. They’re the third-highest team on the board, trailing the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks.
In a tight Atlantic Division race, the Brooklyn Nets are the favorite to win at -250 odds. The 76ers are +175 odds to overcome the Nets and snatch the division crown.
After Embiid went down three weeks ago and LeBron James suffered an ankle injury two weekends ago, Nikola Jokic took over as the front runner to win the NBA MVP.