Joel Embiid has been battling left knee soreness that he terms Tendonitis for the past number of weeks. All indications until Wednesday night were that the rest he was undertaking was simply “load management” and his playoff availability would not be at risk. 

However, on Friday afternoon, Joel met the media in Camden and looked frustrated and mildly dejected. Optimism around his full health heading into the playoffs has evaporated into a much less certain area. 

Knee soreness is not uncommon for big men at the end of an NBA season, but despite the lack of any structural damage showing up on scans, Embiid’s tone indicates that this pain he is experiencing is significant. Gone were his normal jovial smiles and mild trolling humor. He clearly did not relish having to think about, much less discuss, his health. For a player who has battled through so many nagging injuries and fought against the perception of being an injury prone player this has to be frustrating and a bit demoralizing. 

Here is Joel speaking to the media on Friday the day before game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. 

“It’s just about the pain” 

“It’s extremely frustrating, I’ll tell you that but you can only control what you can which is the work you put in everyday, how I treat my body.” 

Medical Perspective

PFO reached out to Dr. Raj Brar, DPT who has done some excellent assessments of Joel’s condition and likely treatment. When asked if this is something that pre-game stretching can help alleviate pain heading into a game Brar responded “No, Tendon rehab is really about step-wise strengthening.”

When addressing if this pain is something that will get progressively worse during a game, Dr. Brar said “It varies. It can show up during games but the key thing here is duration and quantity of pain. There’s very minimal inflammation, rather the tendon fibers are becoming disorganized. 

“If it’s ever sharp or it’s lingering longer than 24 hours and getting worse, it’s a concern. I call tendon rehab a “tightrope of risk/reward” because you have to assess it every day and make decisions. There’s a lot of grey area”

And grey area seems to be exactly where we are at this juncture. 

In general, its tough to get out in front of tendon problems in-season. 76ers have done a very good job imo with balancing load management and games (you can’t “just rest” and think it will go away). There’s always a concern it blows up on you like it did with Josh Hart in early January…very day by day process

Dr. Raj Brar DPT

When looking long term though, Joel does give some signs of relief. 

“I’m still glad that there is nothing else going on, and it’s just regular pain that I have to work through”  

“Everyone that know’s me knows I always want to be on the floor.”