Joel Embiid on Battle With COVID: 'That Jawn Hit Me Hard'

The Philadelphia 76ers had a small, but notable COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month. It all started with Sixers' starting forward Tobias Harris. When he felt symptoms coming on ahead of a matchup, Harris got tested just to be safe. As it turned out, he was positive for COVID-19 and was immediately entered into the NBA's health and safety protocol for the next ten days.

Then, Sixers' second-year guard Isaiah Joe became the second member of the team to test positive. Shortly after him, Matisse Thybulle was the third. It seemed that three would be all for the Sixers, but then Joel Embiid was added to the list.

At this point, all four players are back in action. But it wasn't easy for them to get to this point -- especially Embiid. Like Tobias Harris, Embiid felt severe symptoms throughout his battle with the virus.

On the day Embiid was added into the protocol, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers revealed that Embiid wasn't taking the process well. And on Saturday night, following his long and anticipated return, Embiid confirmed that he had a bad case of the virus.

“It hasn’t been good,” said the All-Star center on Saturday. “That jawn hit me hard. I really thought I wasn’t gonna make it. It was that bad. So, I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad that I got over it and I’m just here doing what I love with some good people.”

Once Embiid showed symptoms, the Sixers knew he would have to be away from the team for at least ten days. When he went out, Embiid missed three-straight home games and didn't make the tour of six cities when the Sixers hit the road for a long trip. He would go on to miss nine-straight games. During that time, the Sixers struggled as they notched a record of 2-7 in his absence.

Although Embiid returned to the floor on Saturday night to face the Minnesota Timberwolves, the superstar big man admittedly wasn't sure if he would make it out on the court for the early matchup against the T'Wolves as his Friday workout left him fatigued and concerned about playing.

“The first time I went up and down was probably two days ago,” Embiid explained. “I honestly didn’t think I was gonna play tonight after the workout last night. I really couldn’t go up and down more than three times. I guess, to me, it’s a miracle I even played this many minutes.”

Limiting his minutes wasn't an option for Embiid. As the Sixers needed him to clock a double-overtime shift on Saturday, the Sixers' star appeared on the court for a season-high of 45 minutes. Although the 76ers took on a tough loss to the T'Wolves, Embiid showed no signs of regression following his battle with COVID as he collected a game-high of 42 points and notched a double-double by grabbing 14 rebounds.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.