Is it Time to Worry About Embiid?

Oh, what a difference a month makes.

Just 30 days ago, the talk of the town was the 76ers, and just how well #TheProcess was working.

A few weeks later, the talk of the town is still the Sixers, but in a much different light. The turn for the worst kicked off last week when it was announced that the highly anticipated debut of Ben Simmons would be put on hold until next season.

But what was more important, and much more worrying, was the announcement that followed.

Earlier today, the Sixers organization announced that Joel Embiid would miss the rest of season due to a meniscus tear. It marks yet another injury for the 22-year old, and fits a pattern that’s haunted him since college.

As a freshmen at Kansas, Embiid was expected to go #1 overall come tournament time. But a foot injury, one that historically doesn’t bode well with big men, ended his season, and (somewhat) derailed his draft stock.

He was still, however, drafted in the top-3, and upon his entering into the league, various injuries, including reoccurring ones, forced him to miss the entirety of the 2014-15′ and 2015-16′ NBA seasons. There was even talk among NBA insiders as to whether this season would be Embiid’s last chance. He was 22, and the “last chance” talks were legitimate…

But he quickly silenced any such talks by putting together a miraculous rookie season on restricted minutes. If the restricted minutes are taken into account, Embiid’s rookie season trumps that of past greats, including his idol, Hakeem Olajuwon.

So this news comes at a less than ideal time, to say the least.

The talent level is there, nobody questions that. But this is also another injury in a laundry list of them. And some concerns should arise.

The central concern being the recurring nature of his injuries. Often with Embiid, his injuries end up being much worse than first expected, and even more often have complications. That first manifested itself in college, when his original foot injury was considered minor, and the timetable for return was a few weeks, at most.

But as complications arose, and the injury was officially identified as a navicular fracture, that timetable kept getting lengthier and lengthier. A once-upon-a-time 6-8 week timetable ended up becoming 6-8 months.

So it doesn’t help that one of the injuries that Embiid has suffered in the NBA was a re-break of that same navicular bone. As previously mentioned, the injury has a concerning history as it relates to big men, most notably Bill Walton and Yao Ming, who both missed well over half of their careers due to injury.

But for as worrisome as the foot is, the knee might even be more so.

Reoccurring knee injuries have ended the careers of guards, and even more so with centers. So if this injury fits the pattern, and becomes reoccurring, Embiid could (this pains me to say), have a condensed career.

But all of this is theoretical.

After all, Embiid is still relatively new to the sport (he’s only been playing 6 years). His once lanky body may still be adapting to the physicality and intensity of competitive hoops. Or it could be just a few strokes of early-career bad luck. Or a mix of the two.

Joel Embiid, once upon a time.

And I sure hope that’s the case. Embiid is one of the best young talents I’ve ever seen, and it’ll be a real shame if his career is further impacted by injury.


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