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March 02, 2017

40 Days and 40 Nights: A look back the worst stretch in recent Sixers history

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110616_Embiid_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Will Sixers center Joel Embiid be the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the year despite playing in just 31 games?

The Sixers have done quite a bit of losing over the last three-plus years and have gone through 20-game stretches where they've posted far worse records than the 8-12 since January 20th, when rookie center Joel Embiid first injured his left knee.

Like, for example, when they went 0-20 (as part of an NBA record 26-game single-season losing streak) back in 2013-14. Or when they went 1-19 to start the 2015-16 season – add the 0-10 to finishing the season before and the 0-18 to start the next year, and that's the worst losing streak in NBA history.

But even with all that losing, the 40 days since Embiid's injury, which includes 20 games and the All-Star break, may ultimately be the darkest in recent memory for Sixers fans, made even darker by the fact that a 10-5 January offered so much hope for a fan base in desperate need of some. 

Now that the dust has settled following the NBA Trade Deadline, and with the knowledge that both Embiid and first-overall pick Ben Simmons won't see the court for the rest of the season, this seems like as good a time as any to recap just how disastrous the last 40 days have been for the Sixers. 

In a sense, it's time to turn the page on this season and begin its final chapter.

Sure, reliving the events of the last month-plus might be painful, but it's important that the details don't get lost amid the mountain of missteps constructed by Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers.

Like pulling off a Band-Aid, let's just get through this as quickly as possible, starting with January 20, 2017, against the Portland Trail Blazers:

PROLOGUE: Embiid suffers knee contusion vs. Blazers

Coming down on his left leg, Joel Embiid suffered a knee contusion in the game against the Portland Trailblazers. The 22-year-old big man got up slow and started limping. He was able to make it down the floor but eventually returned to the locker room to get an MRI.

"I knew it was OK," Embiid said after. "I just felt I landed the wrong way."

Embiid briefly returned to the game but was eventually shut down by team doctors after tweaking the injury.

DAY 3 | Jan. 23 — Sixers: Embiid likely to miss upcoming back-to-back 

After being evaluated over the weekend, the injury that kept Embiid out of crunch time in Friday night’s win over Portland is being classified as a left-knee contusion. The rookie of the year frontrunner didn’t go through any portion of Monday’s practice but did receive treatment. 

Embiid is listed as doubtful for Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles and won’t make the trip to Milwaukee, as the Sixers aren’t deviating from holding the 7’2” center out on the second half of back-to-backs.

So far, things seem to be fine. And even though Brown assumed they'd be without Embiid for both those games anyway, there were reports that he would return to action against the Rockets on Jan. 27.

DAY 4 | Jan. 24 – Sixers provide update on Ben Simmons

In addition to the tweet below, this appeared on

The results of the scan, which Bryan Colangelo told Comcast SportsNet over the weekend he hopes will be the last one Simmons undergoes, were clean.

Bookmark this one and we'll get back to it in a little bit.

DAY 6 | Jan. 26 — Embiid not voted into NBA All-Star Game 

After all of the campaigning on social media and the campaigning by Brett Brown, Sixers center Joel Embiid will not be in the NBA All-Star Game barring an injury of some sort. 

The NBA all-star reserves were revealed during Thursday night’s pre-game show on TNT, and the Eastern Conference coaches did not select the Sixers star rookie.

At the time, Sixers fans were upset not to see Embiid make the squad. They likely wouldn't have felt quite so strongly had they known just how serious his injury actually was. As for Embiid's thoughts on not making it... 

RELATED: McConnell: Embiid All-Star snub is 'absolute crap'

NIGHT 7 | Jan. 27 — Embiid returns, scores 32 vs. Rockets on national TV

To make the performance even more impressive, Embiid wasn’t at 100 percent. The third-year rookie said his knee felt a little sore after the game, which he was told him usually takes three weeks to heal. Of course, it had only been one week since Embiid had tweaked that knee in the win over Portland.

(Embiid won’t travel with the team to Chicago for Sunday’s game for what the team is describing as rest. They play back in Philly on Monday night, which would line up with his usual back-to-back workload.)

“They didn’t want me to push it, they didn’t want me to play at all,” Embiid said of the Sixers medical staff. “I had to convince them. There’s a trust between me and them.”

So the Sixers team doctors didn't want Embiid to play at all, but allowed themselves to be persuaded by a guy who never spent a day in medical school? Gotcha.

DAY 10 | Jan. 30 — Embiid to miss Kings game, doubtful for road trip 

Embiid, who returned just a week after tweaking his knee against Portland, admitted that he felt soreness in his knee after the game. He was told by a doctor that the injury was a bone bruise, which usually takes take two to three weeks to heal. Still, the 22-year-old center bargained his way into the lineup and played at an extremely high level. ...

The decision to let Embiid play against Houston on national television now comes more into question now that he is out for Monday's make-up game against Sacramento with that same left knee contusion and doubtful (an understatement, considering the plan isn't for him to travel) for the Dallas-San Antonio back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday. According to the Sixers, no decision has been made for the last two games of the trip (at Miami and Detroit).

Embiid, as you now know, didn't play at all during that road trip, but the team was still considering it a day-to-day injury. And if you think this is starting to look bad for Colangelo and Co. just hang tight because the sh*t is really about to hit the fan in February.


DAY 19 | Feb. 8 — Embiid ruled out for next two games, but that's it 

Embiid went through “a light workout” (and was sporting some nifty new goggles), but he won’t play against San Antonio. That will make it eight straight games missed since the uber-talented 22-year-old big man returned for the nationally televised game against the Houston Rockets and 11 of 12 since he suffered the initial bone bruise against the Portland Trailblazers. 

And while the Sixers are justified in being cautious, the decision to let Embiid talk his way into playing (and make no mistake, he was nothing short of brilliant that night) when he didn’t appear 100 percent against Houston still looks pretty questionable.

The Sixers also announced that Embiid wouldn't make the trip to Orlando. No further update was provided.

DAY 21 | Feb. 10 — Colangelo goes on WIP, downplays severity of Embiid’s injury

This is where things really go off the rails, although now that we're beginning to see the full picture, it seems like that was already taking place behind the scenes.

The words "if dealt with appropriately" just jump out and smack you in the face. It makes you think back to the initial diagnosis, the decision to let him play against Houston, the amount he was able to practice, and this next item...

NIGHT 21 | Feb. 10 – Embiid dances on stage at Meek Mill concert 

This was something that many people shrugged off at the time, largely because all the information we were getting out of the Sixers suggested that Embiid was just fine and would be returning any day now. And when real news regarding the health of their star rookie came down the next day, it was quickly forgotten. Like I said, it's important to see all the details laid out at once.

DAY 22 | Feb. 11 — Sixers forced to admit Embiid has a torn meniscus 

Derek Bodner reported that Joel Embiid has a low-grade tear in his left meniscus, which the Sixers confirmed before Saturday night's game against the Miami Heat. ... 

Multiple times, Colangelo emphasized that the Sixers don't believe that Embiid's injury is going to keep him out long-term. And while that may be true, it's safe to say that Joel Embiid's left-knee injury will be viewed differently than it was this morning.

It's been 22 days since the original injury and MRI, and Colangelo still doesn't want to admit that this is a longterm injury, even though by Day 40 the team will announce his season is over. 

RELATED: Colangelo failing to prove he's any better than Hinkie | Court jesters: Sixers just can’t stop playing the fool

DAY 26 | Feb. 15 — Brown: 'I fully expect [Simmons] to play this season' 

"Our plan is to still see him on the court, playing games," Brown told ESPN on Wednesday. "We just don't know when. I fully expect him to play this season. He thinks that, and he's motivated to play."

Both Brown and Simmons are in favor of the 6-foot-10, 240-pound point guard/forward making his NBA debut this season, sources told ESPN. However, the decision ultimately rests with the Sixers management.

It's not just that Brown was wrong here, but it's the fact that he was so spectacularly wrong. As bad as things have gotten for the Sixers, perhaps nothing better demonstrates an obvious disconnect or lack of communication between management and the coach.

DAY 26 | Feb. 15 - Embiid out for all-star weekend, but may return after break 

Wednesday's game against the Celtics will be the 13th game in the team's last 14 that Embiid will be sidelined with a slight meniscus tear. In the 12 games he's missed so far while rehabbing his latest injury, the Sixers have gone 5-7, with wins in each of their last three games. 

In preparation for his return – and to make sure he doesn't suffer a setback in the interim – the team said Embiid will make the trip to New Orleans this weekend, but will not participate in either of the all-star events in which he was invited to play... 

The team also said that they were hopeful Embiid would return for their first game following the All-Star break, a home game against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 24.

DAY 27 | Feb. 16 — Report: Simmons' foot 'may not be fully healed'

And the hits just keep on coming, as a rough week of public relations just got worse for the Sixers. On Thursday afternoon, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was scheduled to visit the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York next week for another foot scan. 

Specifically, that would mean Simmons’ foot had not fully healed as of January 23rd. 

Remember that day I told you to bookmark? The one when the Sixers said Simmons was progressing just fine? Whoops.

RELATED: Sixers’ pattern of deceit begins and ends with owner Josh Harris 

DAY 33 | Feb. 22 — Embiid listed as doubtful for weekend

Embiid was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, but he’s still listed as doubtful for this weekend’s games against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks with the bone bruise/slightly torn meniscus in that left knee. The team’s doctors will review Embiid’s progress today over the next 24 hours.

By all accounts, Embiid seemed to be moving well at practice. However, the team went ahead and ruled him out for their next two games, despite saying a week earlier that they were hopeful he would return for that Wizards game. He has now missed almost a month, but the team is still treating his injury as though it's day-to-day.

DAY 34 | Feb. 23 – NBA Trade Deadline

This isn't totally relevant to the other issues outlined here, but it's still worth mentioning. This post could've been even longer if, for example, I included the stuff about Okafor sitting out and then not traveling with the team due to trade rumors, only to wind up back with the team for the remainder of the season. Or stuff about whether or not Colangelo made the right move. Or if he got enough back in return. But you get the idea.

But something did happen this day. And that was Embiid voicing his displeasure over how the team handled the information surrounding his injury.

“I was told that I was going to kind of miss two or three weeks,” Embiid said. “So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled. I thought keeping my name out there was going to literally have people think about me all the time instead of saying when I was going to come back.”

Now their star rookie is even upset. So they have that going for them, which is nice.

DAY 35 | Feb. 24 — Simmons done for year; Embiid 'progressing' but remains out

According to Colangelo, first-overall pick Ben Simmons will not play this season after the scan on his right foot Thursday at the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York showed that his right foot still has not fully healed. 

"Yesterday, Ben underwent a [CT] scan with the doctors in New York and unfortunately the scan indicated that there's not full healing of the bone," Colangelo said. ...

Simmons has yet to play in a game this season after suffering a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Sept. 30, the final day of training camp.

We've officially entered The Twilight Zone. You can try explaining this away all you want, but the more you do, the worse you wind up looking.

DAY 38 | Feb. 27 — Embiid ‘out indefinitely’ with swelling in his left knee

At this point, you really have to wonder if the Sixers will be without both Embiid and Ben Simmons for the rest of the year and if Embiid, once the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year by a country mile, will see the award change hands (possibly to teammate Dario Saric) because he was only able to suit up for 31 total games in his rookie season.

For Embiid, a season that not so long ago brought so much promise in the form of nightly highlights (plus Twitter shenanigans) has again been halted by injury.

Embiid underwent an MRI later that day. And you'll never guess what happened next!

•  MARCH  •

DAY 40 | March 1 — Embiid's season over as MRI reveals 'more pronounced' tear

As it turns out – and because nothing about this team's recently slew of medical missteps makes much sense – it's not even the bone bruise that had sidelined him for the last month causing the problems. No, it's the meniscus tear, the one the team spent so much time assuring us was not part of the problem and was actually a preexisting injury that popped up on his original MRI back in late January.

On Friday, general manager an president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo announced that Embiid, who averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 31 games this season, would be "out indefinitely" after spending the better part of a month insisting that the injured center was day-to-day.

Now, his rookie season is over.

"Our primary objective and focus remains to protect his long-term health and ability to perform on the basketball court," Colangelo said Wednesday. "As our medical team and performance staff continue their diligence in the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of Joel's injury, we will provide any pertinent updates when available."

But can you really put your faith in any of those updates given the mountain of evidence provided above?

RELATED: Hofmann: Three thoughts on the Sixers and Embiid 

Now, one last quick recap of the key dates:

Jan. 20Embiid injured vs. Blazers
Jan. 23Embiid ruled out for 2 games
Jan. 27Embiid scores 32 vs. Rockets
Jan. 30Embiid ruled out vs. Kings, doubtful for road trip
Feb. 8Sixers say Embiid out for next two games only 
Feb. 10Colangelo downplays injury on WIP;
Embiid dances at Meek Mill concert
Feb. 11Sixers forced to admit Embiid has meniscus tear
Feb. 15Brown says he expects Simmons to play;
Embiid hopeful to return after break
Feb. 16Report says Simmons foot not fully healed
Feb. 22Embiid still listed as doubtful
Feb. 23Embiid voices displeasure of handling of injury info
Feb. 24Simmons shut down for season;
Embiid said to be "progressing"
Feb. 27Sixers say Embiid is "out indefinitely"
March 1Sixers say Embiid is done for season


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin