Joel Embiid’s input has carried a lot of weight this season.
From the minutes he’s played to the injuries he’s played through, his opinion matters. This has created a bit of a word problem for the Sixers.
After being listed as doubtful to play against San Antonio on Wednesday, Joel Embiid was officially ruled out. Minutes later, when he said he felt good enough to play, he was reinserted into the starting lineup.
It wasn’t just the swift change in status that was surprising, but also the circumstances surrounding the decisions. Embiid’s sprained right hand was visibly bruised and swollen prior to the Sixers’ 112-106 win over the Spurs, and despite expressing difficulty using the hand at all, he played.
It’s not the first time the Sixers have made a quick switch in status before a game, and it most likely won’t be the last. That makes things difficult heading into Friday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.
Whether listed as probable, questionable, or doubtful, there is really no way to gauge whether Embiid will play.
What is clear is that the willingness to let Embiid play, despite a hand that was puffy and discolored, means the Sixers are willing to take risks in the name of winning.
Following Wednesday’s game, Embiid’s treatment included a massage with Voltaren gel — a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain for a range of ailments from arthritis to sprains — and an ice pack that he wore for about 20 minutes. Two hours later, he iced his hand again.
Embiid continued treatment on Thursday, but there was no official update on whether he will be available for Friday’s game.
Sixers coach Brett Brown called Embiid’s 21-point, 11-rebound, 4-block performance a “gutsy move,” and credited the 7-foot-2 center with playing through the pain of his sprained hand. After the win, Brown said he was worried “a little bit” that Embiid’s playing might lessen his chances for Friday or worsen the injury.
“It’s basketball, and stuff happens,” Embiid said, adding that he would have pulled the plug if things got worse. “I would have told them if something bad happened during the game. I’m glad I went out there.”
Brown said that once the medical staff gives its stamp of approval, he puts the other concerns out of his mind and focuses on coaching the game.
The Sixers’ goals this season have been clear, and nine games with Embiid on the sideline might not look like the team is taking more risks. But is is, and Embiid is leading that charge.
Through knee, back, and now hand injuries, when Embiid feels he can play, he will. The Sixers want and need wins, so when there’s a way to get them, they’re going to take it.