Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid deserves extreme caution

Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers cannot rush Joel Embiid back. Period.

This should, at this point in the season, be obvious. The Philadelphia 76ers cannot, and ideally will not, rush Joel Embiid back. He exited Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland with a shoulder sprain, for which the team set a one-week evaluation period.

According to PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck, the Sixers do not expect Ben Simmons to travel on the upcoming road trip. He will stay in Philadelphia to receive treatment. Embiid will join the party initially and will not travel to L.A. He has not, however, been ruled out for the entire four-game road trip.

The Sixers are keeping the door open for an Embiid return in the near future. That’s fine at face value, as Philadelphia needs Embiid to continue the fight for home-court advantage. The Sixers’ road woes may not translate well to a seven-game series in Miami or Boston.

On the other hand, the Sixers need Embiid at full capacity in the postseason. For all the concern over their inconsistency on the road, none of it matters — not even the elite home record — if Embiid is beat up, slowed down, or worst of all, hurt.

Embiid spends a lot of time in the post. Not as much time as a certain corner of the fanbase would like, but more than anyone else in basketball. He is a massive, physical presence at 7-foot-2, and his style lends itself to excessive contact at the shoulder area.

The Sixers need Embiid to comfortably bang around. He’s not someone who can gingerly waltz into the post. His game is predicated on forcefully establishing position, which in turn creates pressure on the rim, double teams, and easy scoring opportunities.

If there is any chance of re-injury, the Sixers need to hold Embiid out. This seems obvious, but given Philadelphia’s recent track record, it bears restatement. The Sixers have rushed Embiid back for a national T.V. game in the past, for example. We all know the result. A similar situation cannot unfold this time around.

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Let Embiid sit out, maybe for the entire road trip, maybe for even longer. The Sixers will make the postseason regardless. A sixth seed and a healthy Embiid is better than the fourth seed and a half-speed or hurt Embiid.