Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid had a specific goal to accomplish at the end of the regular season. Get to the playoffs healthy by any means. Fortunately for him, Embiid was healthy and ready to roll a couple of weeks ago when the Sixers tipped off the first round against the Washington Wizards.
For the first three games, Embiid entered and exited the matchups healthy. In Game 4, the streak ended. Although he started in Game 4 against the Wizards, Embiid left the court 11 minutes into the game and never returned.
After missing the entire second quarter, the Sixers ruled Embiid out for the rest of the matchup as he dealt with knee soreness. After undergoing an MRI the following morning, the 76ers announced that the big man suffered a small meniscus tear in his knee.
Just like that, Embiid's status for Game 5 in the first round was up in the air. At first, Embiid was doubtful. On the day of the matchup, though, the Sixers ruled him out and considered his timeline to be day-to-day.
While the four-time All-Star has participated in a pregame workout ahead of Game 5 and practiced on Friday and Saturday, Embiid's status for Sunday's Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks is unknown. “It’s too early [to tell if he'll play or not]," said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers on Friday. "I don’t want to say one way or the other. It’s just too early. So, we’ll just find that out.”
Following a practice session on Saturday, Rivers echoed the same sentiment. While the 76ers are keeping Embiid's status on the hush as Game 1 approaches, it's forcing the Atlanta Hawks to prepare as if the big man will play on Sunday.
“We are approaching it as if he will be in uniform on Sunday," said Hawks head coach Nate McMillan on Saturday after practice. "If that’s not the case, we’ll have to make an adjustment. Our preparation is that he will be playing on Sunday. We will adjust as we get the news of who is healthy for Philadelphia."
Considering the unknown gives the Sixers a bit of a competitive advantage, they'll likely keep Embiid's playing status under wraps until tip-off approaches. Meanwhile, the Hawks will wait patiently to see if they'll have to tweak their game plan or not.