May 04, 2023
The Sixers took a beating at the hands of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, and the only piece of optimism came in the form of returning star Joel Embiid. At practice on Thursday, Doc Rivers shared that the team felt "phenomenal" about how Embiid had graded out physically and that his body had responded well to what was admittedly a short stint in a Game 2 blowout.
"He looked good, and his numbers were great," Rivers said on Thursday. "That’s the one thing watching all of the numbers that we track, his numbers were great last night. We didn’t play well, neither did any of us, but just his speed that he reached, his explosions, they were very close to normal. So that was great for us to see."
"More importantly, great for him to be able to do it and see that he can do it and then have very little swelling or anything like that."
Shaking off the rust and getting Embiid's first post-injury game out of the way was a huge reason behind getting him on the floor for Game 2, with the team aware they'd have to fight through some early struggles in order to get their best player back in full form. While Embiid had a decent night relative to expectations – 15 points with five first-half blocks as the only fully-engaged defender – it is clear they're going to get something closer to full-go Embiid to have a chance to win this series.
In the aftermath of Game 2, Embiid indicated to reporters in Boston that the recovery timeline for his injury would have required much more time than they have to wait, indicating he is dealing with a Grade 2 LCL sprain without actually saying so.
"With what I have, it's supposed to be out for 4-6 weeks or something like that. So I'm not going to be 100 percent for that whole time, or I'm not going to be fully healed for that whole time. It felt pretty good to play, and I feel like I can help the team defensively and offensively," Embiid said. "I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I'm feeling for Game 3, probably rusty and not myself, but I feel like just got this out of the way.
"That's a step toward getting back to myself, and obviously, I got a lot of work to do. That starts tonight and tomorrow to make sure I'm ready for Friday."
At the practice facility back in Camden, Embiid was one of the few remaining players hovering around as Doc Rivers finished up his chat with the media, wearing an additional black sleeve on his injured knee while still in full workout gear. It looked as if Embiid was preparing to go through a potential workout as he continues his journey back toward full strength, though it was not immediately clear one way or another.
Philadelphia is tasked with trying to get back to what worked for the group all season long, playing through the MVP in the middle of the floor and riding the Harden/Embiid pick-and-roll combo to elite offensive numbers. While there was an initial adjustment period as one would expect after going a couple of weeks without him, Rivers says he's not concerned about the initial problems, with the body of work more important than one bad game.
"We're making too much of it, we really are," Rivers said Thursday. "Should we just play different the rest of the year now, or should we play the way we played all year? You know what I mean? This is not rocket science, and it's not that hard to do. We didn't play well, I thought their ball pressure took us out of everything, it wouldn't have mattered if Joel was there or not."
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