Joel Embiid

Not even 48 hours removed from the news that Joel Embiid suffered a fractured right orbital bone and mild concussion in the Sixers’ Game-6 victory over the Raptors, a return to the lineup is already on the radar.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there is optimism Embiid will return in time for Game 3 or Game 4:

Back when the news broke on Friday night, my uneducated guess was that Embiid would push for a return in Game 2. Based upon what Wojnarowski says, it sounds like the local party is resigned to the fact that Embiid will miss at least the first 2 games of the series.

It’s also important to note that those target dates seem to be best-case scenarios. The swing moment appears to be on Wednesday. Embiid will be re-evaluated ahead of Game 3 in Philadelphia, according to Wojnarowski’s news story on ESPN[dot]com. If everything is kosher on that re-examination, the Sixers would probably have a hard time keeping Embiid off the court on Friday night. If not, Game 4 or, if necessary, beyond seems more realistic.

The concussion appears to be the first order of business.

Embiid is expected to clear concussion protocol soon, Wojnarowski reports. There is an important factoid to note regarding the concussion. Ramona Shelburne reported on Friday that the concussion protocol demands at least a 5-day shelving for recovery. Upon doing some digging, my understanding is that the protocol is not a set 5-day minimum. Rather, it is based upon the player’s ability to respond to certain activities once symptoms subside. In other words, things are still fluid.

Even if Embiid does return sooner than expected, it may not be fair to regard him as a savior coming to turn the series around on a dime. Normally, once Embiid is cleared by doctors, you figure he still has to go through on-court drills and get some cardio work in so that he’s not at higher risk of injury by being immediately thrown into a real game environment.

Perhaps that may still be the case to some extent in the playoffs. But, I would assume those precautionary processes are rushed a bit if the Sixers feel like they have an opportunity to take control of the series.

Whatever the case, I think it’s fair to temper expectations a bit because a 7-footer built like a truck isn’t going to come back from a period of inactivity and be in perfect cardiovascular conditioning. Beyond that, Embiid will likely don a mask to protect the fractured orbital bone, Wojnarowskl says.

Long story short, we’ll see how soon he plays and how effective he’ll be upon return. But, an Embiid return certainly seems to be more than a tiny, far-away blip on the radar.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are focused on the 2 games in Miami. And the latest news surrounding the Heat suggests they have a shot:

Miami without Lowry isn’t the blow that Philadelphia without Embiid is. But, the Sixers will take a slight leveling of the playing field. However, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the Heat have personnel capable of stepping up in his absence. After all, the Sixers coughed up a brutal game to the Heat, minus Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, early in the season. The Heatle to step up? Gabe Vincent, of all people. 

The Heat are deep, but the Sixers’ chances undoubtedly improve without Lowry playing. I would assume the other players listed on the injury report will play in Game 1. But the subplot would appear that the Heat, by and large, are stepping on the floor at far below 100 percent.

“It’s no different than what I’m used to.”

The Sixers figure to have an opportunity to pull one out in Miami sans Embiid. But, that will largely depend on which James Harden they get. I’m firmly in the boat that people have misunderstood what James Harden was supposed to be to the Sixers. They weren’t asking him to be the Houston version of himself. Embiid is already the unquestioned head honcho. But, they needed an exquisite floor general capable of being a second-leading scorer.

When asked about shape-shifting into various different mindsets across different teams over the last 2 seasons after operating within the same role for his prime years with the Rockets, Harden said on Sunday, “At this point, it’s just sacrificing to win out there. If I score 30 and lose, someone will say something. If I score 19 and win, someone will say something.”

“So at this point, I’ll just do whatever it takes to win the game, sacrificing, I’m the ultimate team player. So now, Jo’s out; gotta be more aggressive and score the basketball and get to the basket and make hard decisions. It’s no different than what I’m used to.”