Joel Embiid thought his season was finished a little over three weeks ago. As the Philadelphia 76ers center laid on the court at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. holding his knee, Embiid couldn't help but think of the worst-case scenario.
Fortunately, Embiid was overreacting. After receiving an MRI the following morning, Embiid's results came back negative as he didn't suffer any structural damage. While the big man certainly dodged a major bullet, he still had to miss at least two weeks' worth of games to undergo rehab on his knee.
A two-week timetable turned into three, and Embiid finally returned to the court three weeks and one day after injuring himself against the Wizards in the second half of their third meeting this year.
To no surprise, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers had Embiid on a minutes restriction. As he didn't want to play the big man for over 35 minutes, Embiid checked in for a 28-minute shift on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
During his time on the floor, Embiid shot 6-for-14 from the field and knocked down 12 of his 17 free throw attempts. In total, he put up 24 points while collecting eight rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots.
The big man was solid -- but he didn't think he was anywhere near as good as he was in previous games throughout the season.
“Obviously a great win, but I had a bad game,” Embiid admitted on Saturday night. “I’m just trying to get my rhythm back and just get back in the groove and help these guys offensively and defensively and to win some games.”
The Sixers didn't anticipate having MVP-caliber Embiid on Saturday night for obvious reasons. As he just started ramping up his conditioning and basketball activities a week ago, the four-time All-Star was expected to have some rust.
“I thought he played okay. You can see the rust,” said Sixers' coach Doc Rivers. “We turned the ball over a little and didn’t execute very well down the stretch of the game. I thought part of that is he probably didn’t even remember half of it. We won the game. I wasn’t thrilled with how we played. It was one of those sloppy, ugly games. We had so many chances, up 20 to put the game away. We just refused to do that tonight.”
As expected, the Sixers will ease Embiid back into action. Considering they want to ensure he's one-hundred percent for the eventual playoff run, the team won't ask for him to do too much until he's physically ready to start taking over again.