Joel Embiid needed an MRI on his knee after swelling — or “swellness,” as the Sixers originally tweeted — developed earlier in the week. Wednesday, the Sixers announced that Embiid is being shut down for the season. There is nothing swell about this.
“The assessment of Monday’s follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid’s left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan,” said Sixers Chief Medical Director and Co-Chief of Sports Medicine Orthopedics at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Jonathan Glashow, via a release from the team. “We will continue to work with leading specialists to gather additional information through clinical examination and sequential testing to determine the best course of action and next steps.”
With that diagnosis, Embiid is out for the season.
“Our primary objective and focus remains to protect his long-term health and ability to perform on the basketball court,” said Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo, per the Sixers’ statement. “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.”
This isn’t a surprise. Embiid has missed more than a month of time after falling and hitting his knee on Jan. 20. He sat for three games before playing on national television against Houston on Jan. 27, but he hasn’t played since.
When on the court, Embiid was a dynamic force, averaging 20.2 points 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, playing just 25.4 minutes per game. His 31-game rookie season has set the Sixers on a path to potential future success, but Sixers fans will have to wait until the 2017-18 season to see what they have in this young corps.
Embiid joins Ben Simmons, the 2016 first overall pick, in being shelved for the season. Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his foot in preseason that never properly healed. The team announced last week he will not play at all this season.
While the news is disappointing for Sixers fans, and certainly for Embiid, the season was lost anyway. Now, with Embiid out, the Sixers can focus on improving their stock in the upcoming draft. To some that might sound like tanking, but for a team with very few quality players left to put out on the floor each night, it’s just the way the rest of the season has to go. The Sixers are 22-37, the fifth-worst record in the NBA.
If the Sixers finish with a worse record than the Lakers, who are 19-42, there’s a chance that could actually help the team convey the Lakers’ first-round pick this season, not next. Silver linings aren’t great, but for a team that’s tanked for three seasons, it’s something.