April 29, 2023
Joel Embiid has yet to make an appearance at practice for the Sixers leading into their series against the Celtics, and as of Saturday afternoon, head coach Doc Rivers believes he is doubtful to make an appearance for Philly in Game 1.
"There is no latest," Rivers said Saturday. "Doctors looked at him and he didn't do anything today. I'll say this, if I was a betting man I would say doubtful for at least Game 1, but we'll see."
When asked in a follow-up question what has to happen for Embiid to progress toward playing, Rivers would say simply, "He has to get better."
Embiid, who suffered the sprain to his LCL in Philadelphia's Game 3 win over the Nets, has been spotted at the practice facility throughout the week but has been limited significantly. He was seen working out with resistance bands early this week, and over the past few days has done some "light shooting work" on the side of the facility, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The primary hurdle now, as Rivers alluded to with his follow-up answer on Saturday, is getting to a point where he can actually participate in live-action drills with his teammates. That will be contingent on Embiid's comfort level in addition to clearance from team doctors, who Embiid met with on Thursday to get a better sense of where his recovery is at.
Embiid's (potential) absence would thrust more responsibility onto backup center Paul Reed, who filled in admirably for Embiid during Philadelphia's Game 4 win over Brooklyn. Reed has earned more trust from his teammates over the last few months, and told reporters Saturday that he feels the mental component of his game is far beyond where it was at this time last season.
"I'm in a much better place mentally and physically, moreso mentally, just having more reps during the season has helped me tremendously with my chemistry with my teammates," Reed said Saturday. "Knowing where they need me on the court, where I'm going to get my points, and knowing where I'm going to help my teammates get their points...my teammates know what to expect out of me now, and I know what they expect out of myself. It's a lot more clear."
While they wait for their MVP to try to get right ahead of arguably the biggest Sixers series in two decades, the Sixers have tried to keep their messaging and their focus on what they can control, rather than the availability of their big man.
"I think the biggest thing we can do right now is just focus on the Sixers," Tyrese Maxey said Wednesday. "We got to focus on our brand of basketball, how we want to play, no matter which team we're playing against, how we want to play every single night."
"Let's say Joel is 100 percent, we're still going to have an hour of practice on how to play without Joel," Rivers said at practice this past Tuesday. "Because those 10 or 15 minutes every game are probably the most important part of the game."
From the sound of things, they could be without Embiid for the full 48 on Monday night, but we'll wait to see if there are any positive developments on Sunday morning, when the Sixers will hold their last practice before heading up to Boston.
This story is developing.
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