More than six months after the Philadelphia 76ers initially diagnosed Joel Embiid’s injury as a left knee contusion, four-plus months after he underwent surgery to repair what turned out to be a torn left meniscus and a little over a month after Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo said he doesn’t anticipate a minutes restriction for the 7-foot sensation, Embiid has not been cleared for all contact.
We are approaching two months before the start of the regular season, and Embiid still expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late September, according to ESPN reporter Marc J. Spears:
Sixers C Joel Embiid says he expects to be ready for training camp & is doing non-contact drills , but he hasn't been cleared to play 5-on-5
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) August 2, 2017
“I can do everything but play 5-on-5 and one-on-one,” Embiid told Spears from the Basketball Without Borders camp prior to Saturday’s NBA Africa Game in Johannesburg. “I think I will be ready for training camp.”
The revelation that Embiid still has not been fully cleared and his “I think” qualifier has to raise some eyebrows in Philadelphia, where they have endured years of misdiagnosed medical expectations. The team has consistently been inconsistent on the status of injured lottery picks Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons in recent years, to the point that expectations are often met with eye rolls.
Medical issues for the 76ers predate the current front office and even the one before that, and the team was fined $3 million in 2015 for failing to disclose Jrue Holiday’s injury history prior to trading him to the New Orleans Pelicans for the right to pick Noel. Recent years have not been any more kind.
From March 2016 through the start of last season, Okafor took more than six months to recover from an arthroscopic meniscus surgery from which the team originally said he would return in six weeks. Meanwhile, the Sixers continued to push Simmons’ return date from foot surgery back until they finally ruled the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 out for his entire rookie season at the end of February.
Before that, the Sixers drafted an injured Embiid in 2014 and originally projected the Cameroonian center’s recovery time from foot surgery as five to eight months. He missed the entire 2014-15 season, suffered multiple setbacks, and missed the 2015-16 season, too. After 31 glorious games upon finally debuting for Philadelphia, Embiid suffered what the team termed a left knee contusion in January, before a report surfaced in February that suggested he had actually partially torn his left meniscus.
Here’s how Colangelo responded:
“A lot of players do play with minor tears. Once again, the injury is thought to be mostly about the bone bruise and that’s what he’s being treated for. If he can show he is healthy and able to play, there is no reason he shouldn’t play. This is not thought to be a severe injury.”
Six weeks later, the Sixers announced Embiid would undergo a season-ending knee surgery more ominous sounding than the “minor arthroscopic procedure” that Okafor underwent on his meniscus in March 2016 and kept him sidelined through the start of the following season. All of which is to say there is was some healthy skepticism when Colangelo said the injured Embiid, Simmons and Markelle Fultz were all on track to practice together come October and play without minutes restrictions.
Here’s hoping the projections are accurate this time around, because based on what we saw from him in his restricted minutes last season, an uninhibited Embiid will be worth the ever-changing wait.
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