Reigning MVP Joel Embiid suffered a lateral meniscus “injury” on his left knee and will be out at least through the weekend, the Philadelphia 76ers announced Thursday, placing the defense of his lofty title in jeopardy.
Embiid is awaiting further testing to determine whether a tear of the meniscus occurred, and how severe the injury may be, according to sources close to the center.
Embiid, who suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of a loss Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, missed his 13th game Thursday against the Utah Jazz. Per a new league rule, any player who does not play in at least 65 of his team’s 82 regular-season games is ineligible for postseason awards. Embiid will be out for at least two more games, and if his absence extends any further, his MVP defense is over.
The two-time scoring champ was hurt when Jonathan Kuminga of the Warriors fell on his left knee. Embiid immediately clutched his knee in visible agony before exiting the court on his own power. He did not re-enter the game as the 76ers went on to lose 119-107. Embiid scored 14 points in 30 minutes before exiting.
“Embiid, in consultation with the 76ers medical staff and several leading specialists, will be out through the weekend while a treatment plan is finalized,” Philadelphia said in a statement. “Updates will be provided as appropriate.”
The NBA fined the 76ers $75,000 Thursday for failing to include Embiid on their injury report “in an accurate and timely manner” before the team’s game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. Embiid missed that game because of soreness in his right knee.
Embiid’s place as an All-Star starter is also in jeopardy. He was selected to start for the East, and if he cannot play in that Feb. 18 showcase in Indianapolis, commissioner Adam Silver will select his replacement. The Sixers, meanwhile, have lost four straight and as of this writing are fifth in the East, a full seven games out of first.
In their first game after news of the injury, the 76ers topped the Jazz 127-124. Emerging guard Tyrese Maxey, who was named to his first All-Star team earlier Thursday, dropped a career-high 51 points on 17-of-27 shooting, including 7-of-9 from 3.
Longer term, Embiid had publicly committed to play for Team USA this summer at the Olympics. The injured knees could keep him out of the Paris Games, forcing the team to replace a 7-footer who can shoot 3s.
In other words, much is riding on the weekend and whatever further diagnosis awaits the NBA’s MVP.
(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / NBAE via Getty Images)