The Sixers have to be one of the most unlucky teams in sports history when it comes to injuries.
We all know Joel Embiid’s history. Missed his first two years, had a season-ending injury his rookie year, and then Markelle Fultz’s elbow almost knocked him out of his second year. There have been other scares, but none of those scares carried the same weight of what happened a couple of weeks ago against the Wizards.
Luckily, Embiid was able to escape with a bone bruise and has since returned to the lineup, but that night put this season in perspective. After many years of heartbreak, it finally feels like the Sixers have a legit shot at winning a championship.
In past years there have always been questions regarding how far the Sixers could go. Some of those questions remain, but having Embiid playing at an MVP level has eased the concern.
The beauty of this Sixers team is that they do not need to rely on Joel Embiid to win regular-season games. Having Doc Rivers at the helm gives them structure, and that structure is what allowed them to go 7-3 without Embiid in March.
Knowing that they were able to do that along with the addition of George Hill will allow them to take a cautious approach to Joel Embiid’s ramp up.
A quick look at the standings will show that the Sixers have a Top 3 seed all but locked up. Before Monday’s action, the Sixers are tied, with Brooklyn atop the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee, who is riding a hot streak, sits a game and half behind in third. The next closest team in Atlanta sits eight games behind. The current status of the standings gives the Sixers the luxury to plan for the playoffs. Securing the first seed would be nice. However, if it means riding Joel Embiid hard, it is not the smart play.
I know the term “load management” is frowned upon, but until the NBA cracks down on teams using it the Sixers should certainly play the game with Joel Embiid. Let him rest on back to back. If the knee is causing any discomfort, let him sit. You want him playing in primetime matchups but take advantage of sitting him against weaker teams. We all want him to win the MVP, but the cost of pushing him to his limit during the regular season is not worth it.
Everyone and their mother knows that the Sixers title chances lay in Joel Embiid’s hands. That only puts more importance on how they should manage his rest because there is no sense pushing him in meaningless games.
While it would be great to chase the first seed and watch Embiid take home the MVP the Sixers need to remain cautious and make sure he is ready to go for the postseason.
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