Major injury update for Nikola Jokic's main rival and contemporary ahead of playoffs

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets
Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

When it comes to current NBA players there aren’t many guys who can even make a case to be on the same tier as Nuggets superstar, Nikola Jokic. There are even fewer guys at the center position; Jokic stands alone.

Joel Embiid is the closest thing to a rival of Jokic

But perhaps the only other big man in the league who can make the claim is Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid won the league’s MVP award last season and came in second to Jokic the two years prior. Even this season, Embiid is the only player other than Jokic to sit atop the MVP Ladder.

Embiid was actually the MVP frontrunner until suffering a meniscus injury in late January. Embiid has missed all of February and March, which has rendered him ineligible for postseason awards. 

His absence has also caused a massive downturn for the 76ers, who went from battling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference to fighting just to avoid the play-in tournament.

Embiid injury update

But on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Philly head coach Nick Nurse expressed optimism that the reigning MVP will return before the end of the regular season. The Sixers now have eight games left; Woj stated the team believes Embiid can play in a “handful” of them.

For anyone who was thinking Embiid wouldn’t return at all this season, Woj also said he’s been told it’s a “matter of when, not if”. There is still no official timeline, but the return of Joel Embiid this season is inevitable.

Can Embiid save the 76ers?

It’s impossible to say exactly how healthy Embiid will be when he returns. It will likely take him some time to ramp up, to get back to NBA speed and intensity, to trust his leg at full speed, and to build the stamina required to be himself.

But time isn’t something the Sixers can afford right now. The last couple of months have shown how hopeless the 76ers are without Embiid. If he can’t come back looking like himself, they are drawing dead anyway. So as long as he is cleared to play, they’re better off getting whatever version of Embiid they can get.

He won’t have time to win the MVP award or to vault his team back up the standings. But he can certainly make Philadelphia a threat in the play-in games, and a huge pain for any potential first-round opponent.

For now, we’re all still awaiting an update with concrete timelines, but in the meantime enjoy this recent video of Embiid getting in work on the court, and looking good doing so.