Sixers must stand firm and protect Joel Embiid, not rush him back for NBA playoffs

SIXR12
Will the masked man play in Game 3 against the Heat? Maybe he shouldn’t.

MIAMI – The 76ers’ caution in regards to Joel Embiid is warranted.

A fractured orbital bone is no joke. Having two injuries near his left eye less than five years apart is kind of scary.

Well, that’s what Embiid is dealing with. So the Sixers are right for putting his health and possibly his eye sight ahead of fielding their best lineup against Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The all-star is listed as doubtful for  Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday night. He already has missed 10 games since suffering a fractured orbital bone on March 28 against the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center.

Poll

Could the 76ers win this series without Joel Embiid?

Embiid was a limited participant at Wednesday’s practice here. He scrimmaged a little bit with the team’s low-minute guys at the end of the practice. But by now, we all know that’s not good enough for the noticeably frustrated center.

Following Monday’s Game 2 loss, he went on Instagram to voice his displeasure with not playing. Embiid posted, “[Freaking] sick and tired of being babied.” Then he told  ESPN, “I promised the city the playoffs and I’m not on the court, and I may not be on Thursday [for Game 3], either. I wish more than anything that I was out there. I just want the green light to play.”

That’s understandable, but at what cost?

Miami is a physical team. And this is the NBA where throwing elbows is just a part of the game. A shot to the left side of Embiid’s face could do major damage. A source said a forceful blow to the orbital bone could even permanently damage the sight in his left eye.

Yet, Embiid wants to play. Of course, he does. He’s old school and wants to make up lost time. Embiid was sidelined his first two years and all but 31 games last season due to injury.

So he’s eager to take in the moment and lead his team on both ends of the court, and he’s not alone.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
The Sixers should be careful with Embiid, as this injury could have a permanent effect on his vision.

A portion of the Sixers’ fan base wants him on the court. They’re tired of the team’s perceived use of bubble-wrap around him whenever he’s injured.

But all the people wanting him to play will be the same ones criticizing the organization if he further damages his eye.

The promising future that Embiid is expected to have would be in jeopardy. An eye injury is serious, especially when it’s your second one.

His previous injury happened during his lone season at the University of Kansas.

On Jan. 8, 2014, Embiid, a freshman at the time, was forced to wear goggles in a game against Oklahoma after he had injured the eye after he was  inadvertently hit by teammate Hunter Mickelson during practice earlier that week, according the Kansas City Star.

Embiid went on to score six points and grab six rebounds in 19 minutes of action in the Jayhawks’ 90-83 victory. Afterward, the center told reporters he would continue to don the eyewear in practice and during the Jan. 11, 2014, game against Iowa State.  He did wear goggles during that game. Embiid, however, downplayed the whole thing.

“I can see,” Embiid told reporters. “There’s no major injury, or whatnot. I can see.”

This time around, he told the Philadelphia media on April 11 that the area near his left eye was numb. Embiid admitted that he wasn’t really ready to play at the time. Apparently, his opinion changed over the next five days.

That’s not shocking considering he’s determined to help his teammates. The hope is that he’ll return soon. Listed as doubtful, there’s a small chance he could return as early as Thursday.

But until the organization deems he’s ready to play, the Sixers  will  continue to protect him, which is the best thing for Embiid and the Sixers in the long run.