Cooney: Sixers hard to believe when it comes to injuries

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Joel Embiid takes shot during pregame warmups before sitting out a game last week..

WAIT . . . WHAT?

Where does any of the 76ers' latest Joel Embiid saga make sense?

Now Embiid has a "very minor meniscal tear" in his left knee, team president Bryan Colangelo announced Saturday. This revelation comes after the organization had showed immeasurable frustration the past couple of weeks over repeated questions about the rookie center's health.

Let's rehash.

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Embiid took a fall in a game Jan. 20 against Portland in which his left leg bent awkwardly inward. He headed to the locker room, but he returned to play. Again, he landed hard on his left leg, it buckled, and he was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Following the 93-92 win, Embiid said he had wanted to go back into the game again, that he felt well enough to do so. The thought among coaches, doctors, teammates and media was that it probably was a good idea he was shelved for the rest of the night.

The Sixers sat their 7-2, 265-pound center the next three games, claiming it was a mostly precautionary measure as a bone bruise was suffered when the knee hyperextended. That is normal, as a bone-on-bone collision is what happens during a hyperextension, and that can sometimes take quite a while to heal.

But then, there was Embiid playing a week later, in a nationally televised game against Houston. He had 32 points in 28 minutes and 10 seconds and showed no ill effects from the fall a week earlier. Following the game, he professed no pain or soreness. Yet, after having missed the previous three games, Embiid has now sat all nine games since.

The morning of Saturday's game against the Heat, Embiid said his knee felt as good as it has in a long time. And this was the day after he put on a minute-plus dancing performance on stage during a Meek Mill concert at the Wells Fargo Center.

Is dancing for a few minutes going to do further damage? Probably not. But it was thought that bowling a few frames wouldn't have set back Andrew Bynum, either. It's probably more the perception than anything, but still . . .

Team president Bryan Colangelo agreed to break a long silence on Thursday and appeared on a local radio station. He admitted that Embiid had suffered some swelling in the knee following the Houston game, and that the injury was basically being evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

This was a day after coach Brett Brown had said that withholding Embiid from playing was nothing to be too concerned about, that "he's coming along fine. Nobody needs to worry that there's anything deeper than that. Everybody understands, I'm sure, that we've heard it so much over the years that we're moving slowly and trying to move wisely. But there is no conspiracy . . . I believe that we're going to see him not too far away."

Did the team not divulge to Brown the slight tear in the meniscus, though Colangelo revaled an MRI following the Houston game did show the tear? And why not be forthcoming to the fans about the injury?

It lends to so much cloudiness when it comes to injuries surrounding players on this team, through different general managers and coaches, but still the same owner. Forget the Bynum knee/bowling saga, because who wants to go back there? But there was Nerlens Noel tweeting his desire to play toward the end of his rookie season while recovering from a torn ACL, stating he was perfectly healthy to do so. And let's not forget the noncommunication by the organization surrounding Embiid needing a second surgery on his right foot, just days after then-GM Sam Hinkie had said recovery was moving forward at a good rate.

Last March, Jahlil Okafor required surgery on a torn meniscus, which, at the time, the team deemed minor and said his recovery time would be six weeks. It was close to seven months later until Okafor could get on the floor in a full-time capacity.

Why do questions have to persist, speculation grow and temper of management rise before the fans are given a fair assessment of injuries? What's wrong with being honest?

Could it be that the extent of all these injuries isn't fully known until finally disclosed to the public? Maybe, but that doesn't speak very well of the medical staff, does it? If you are a beat writer and on the email lists of teams throughout the league, injury reports are mostly given in a very timely fashion and with full details of expected recovery time. Why the secrecy of the Sixers?

At times, it seems the players have no idea when they are going to get the nod. Embiid said at a practice recently that he was ready to play 40 minutes a night. That he felt great. Maybe he did. And maybe the team just wanted to be ultracautious with a meniscus tear. If so, it would have been nice to know.

If all involved in the Sixers organization truly believe in The Process moving forward, then being forthcoming about injuries and timelines and MRIs shouldn't be a problem. If fans get disgruntled because an injury has occurred, that's not the team's problem. Injuries happen.

But if the uproar of fans is due to secrecy and half-truths, especially when it directly relates to them spending hard-earned money, that falls directly on the Sixers.

cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog