Joel Embiid underwent successful knee surgery on his left meniscus on Tuesday, the 76ers announced in a statement, and he will be reevaluated in roughly a month. If you want to get technical, March 6 will be four weeks exactly from the procedure.
At that point, there would be five weeks remaining in the regular season, which would give Embiid plenty of time to ramp up for the playoffs. But that’s the most optimistic outlook.
Amid concern that Embiid could be done for the year, Sixers president Daryl Morey said on Friday that the team is “hopeful” Embiid will be back this season, that the “feedback has been more good than bad” since the procedure, and that because of that, he approached the trade deadline intending to maximize the opportunity he believes the Sixers have to compete for a title — namely by trading for Buddy Hield.
“Obviously it’s not a hundred percent,” Morey said of Embiid being able to return this season. “But we felt like with Joel playing at an MVP level, and we’re hopeful that he can get back to that, that this is a year that we’ve got a real shot.”
Embiid was almost assuredly on his way to a second straight MVP, for which he now has no chance to meet the minimum 65-game requirement. He is leading the league in scoring at 35.3 PPG, and Tyrese Maxey has emerged as an All-Star and borderline All-NBA-level player. Adding Hield goes a long way toward filling what is quietly a glaring 3-point hole in Philly’s offensive attack.
Maxey leads the Sixers, who make the fourth fewest 3-pointers per game in the league, with 142 made 3s, but after that, no player has made more than 70 this season. Hield has cashed 137 3s so far this season and has annually averaged 276 over the past five years.
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In fact, entering this season, Hield’s 1,557 made 3s since 2017-18 register as the most in the league — even more than Stephen Curry.
Hield, who’s set to become a free agent this summer, doesn’t have to be a short-term rental; the Sixers will have plenty of cap space to resign should the two sides want a prolonged pairing. But the fact that nothing beyond this season is guaranteed is proof that Morey is taking his shot right now with the hope that his MVP center will eventually be a part of what he sees as a championship formula.
Here’s to hoping he’s right. Nobody wants to see Embiid lose this season, which has been so promising on so many levels for the Sixers, who’ve had just about enough adversity to deal with over the past few years from Ben Simmons to James Harden and now another inopportune injury for Embiid, whose presence is everything for a Sixers team that is 4-12 without him this season.