MVP superstar big man and Nikola Jokic rival scheduled to finally return this week

Mar 31, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts in the fourth
Mar 31, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts in the fourth / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The only man other than Nikola Jokic to lead the NBA MVP ladder this season is Joel Embiid, center for the Philadelphia 76ers and reigning league MVP. Embiid and Jokic have basically gone back and forth for the past four seasons battling for the honor and the claim of best player in the league, at least for the regular season.

The two have shared the past three awards, with Jokic winning in 2021 and 2022 and Embiid taking the award last season. The two big men were battling neck and neck for the award this season as well until Embiid suffered a meniscus injury in late January; he’s been sidelined ever since.

Embiid injury update

Things have been quiet on the Embiid front for months, with no real timetable or update, but that has changed in recent days. Last Wednesday, head coach Nick Nurse told reporters that he expected to Embiid to return before the playoffs in regular season games.

Then over the weekend, a video of Embiid was posted by the team, showing the Philly center doing on-court work and looking good. Then on Monday morning, Woj and Shams both dropped bombs, revealing that Embiid’s return is imminent - as soon as Tuesday - and he’s successfully completed 5-on-5 scrimmages, clearing all the necessary hurdles.

The defending MVP has since been ruled out for Tuesday night’s game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he’s expected to return this week. After Tuesday, the 76ers have six more regular season games for Embiid to ramp up and work his way back into playing shape.

Too late for Embiid to save the Sixers?

The Sixers are currently 40-35 and eighth place in the East. Every game left will be vital, as they’d love to fight their way up to sixth to avoid the play-in, or at least get to seventh so they can host a do-or-die game for the seventh seed.

Realistically, it may be too late for that, but with Embiid in the fold, the Sixers at least have a fighting chance. They’ve looked mostly hapless without their MVP candidate, and it was clear the team wasn’t going to make any noise in the playoffs. 

But now they’ve got renewed life. If Embiid can get close to where he was, the Sixers can certainly beat any team in a play-in setting, and will suddenly become a scary first-round opponent for whoever they may face.