Joel Embiid has played just one game since January 21. The Sixers have been very cautious with their rookie superstar throughout the year, and after Embiid suffered soreness in his knee following a 32-point performance on January 27 against Houston, he has been shelved in order to give ample recovery time and to not risk further injury. The team is 1-6 since the Rockets game, and the duo of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel have been given the opportunity to showcase their talents in the absence of the starting center.
There has been speculation, or a conspiracy theory, that the organization is holding Embiid out to tank for a higher draft pick. The rookie’s play was taking the team to the brink of playoff contention, but this squad is too young to make it into the playoffs over the more experienced teams in the east. So, instead of barely missing the playoffs and drafting in the low-end of the lottery, the team loses for a couple weeks and falls back into the top-5 pick range. And if Okafor or Noel happen to raise their trade value while Joel is out, that would be a bonus.
Last night, the believers of this diabolical plan concocted by Bryan Colangelo were given additional evidence for their argument. At the Meek Mill concert in Philadelphia, Joel Embiid danced onstage shirtless and posted the video on his Instagram story. The skeptics of the Embiid injury would refer to these videos of proof that he could have been playing over the past two weeks. If his knee holds up well enough during a Meek Mill concert, then surely he could have been playing in basketball games.
In an interview following a workout this morning, Embiid told CSN Philly that he “is not healthy” and “not able to play right now.” He did mention, however, that his knee felt better today than it has in two weeks since sustaining in the injury, which could mean that things are looking up for the big man. And when asked about joining his friend Meek Mill on stage? Joel made it known that he is “just enjoying life,” and Sixers fans know how much he likes to have a good time.
The idea that Joel Embiid has been sitting out games while healthy so that the Sixers can tank their way to another top-5 draft pick is ludicrous. In fact, the worst thing that could have happened to the organization after the hot streak that the team went on was for Embiid to suffer an injury. Tanking is no longer first priority at the Wells Fargo Center, and a fight for a playoff spot would have exceeded all expectations for the 2016-17 season. As an executive, to bench a team’s best player in hopes of a high draft pick when a playoff spot is a realistic possibility is a move worth of firing.
Whether or not Joel Embiid should have been dancing on a stage at a concert is arguable, but the fact that he was dancing does not, by any means, imply that he is healthy enough to undergo the grind of an NBA game. A bone bruise does not mean that the 22-year-old should not be allowed to go out and have fun. He practiced this morning, but will almost certainly be held out until after the all-star break. When his knee is completely healed, he will return to the lineup–no sooner, no later.
This entire situation has been blown of out proportion. From the Colangelo Conspiracy, to the Okafor showcasing, to the draft-pick-tanking, fans have taken a simple case and made it a drama. Joel Embiid is injured, and he needs the time to fully recover from his injury. There is nothing more to it. Nonetheless, he has a bone bruise in his knee, not a broken foot. There should be no issues with a player attending a friend’s concert and dancing for the crowd. Embed loves the spotlight, and that is about as “spotlight” as it can get. After the all-star break, he will be back, and fans will watch him, yet again, carry the Sixers back into relevancy.
Calm down, let Joel Embiid have fun, and Trust the Process.
Photo by Bill Streicher (via Flickr)