The Sixers are struggling to find answers to fill the void Joel Embiid leaves and it hasn’t been easy to watch. Recent news has hinted at the hope of Embiid returning before the regular season is over. But, if Joel were to return this season when is the most realistic time and where should the team stand?


Joel provides an update

Embiid spoke with reporters on Thursday for the first time since his injury. He said that the plan is for him to return this season and that he’s feeling good. There’s still no timeline for his recovery time but reports came from Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday that said that the earliest hope is late-March. Woj also said we’re about a week away from getting an update on his timeline. 

The optimism is there from the team and Embiid that he’ll be able to come back before the regular season ends. However, this decision to return is up to him and when he feels he’s ready. Embiid said on Thursday his mindset is that it doesn’t matter where the team is, if he can play then he’s going to play.


When is the most rational timeline for his return? 

Obviously, no one is rushing Joel to come back and the most important thing is that he’s as close to 100% as he can be in the playoffs. Assuming late-March is the correct timeline, March 27th feels the most realistic date. It would give Embiid around two weeks to ramp up while also helping the Sixers win crucial games to be in a good playoff position. Woj stated that the team’s goal isn’t to bring him back and see the amount of regular season games they’re going to win with him. It’s to get Embiid as healthy as possible for a playoff run.


What the team needs to do in the meantime

The Sixers are 4-8 since Embiid went down with his injury, dropping them to 5th in the East. They’re tied with the Magic and the Pacers, while being a half game up on the 8th seed Heat. If they continue to lose at this rate they’ll find themselves in the Play-in Tournament. Looking ahead at the schedule there’s at least 11 games they should win, on paper anyways. 

And, while we shouldn’t get caught up in potential first-round matchups, it’s certainly something to keep in mind during the last month of the season. If they finish in 6th or 7th place, they would play the Bucks or the Cavaliers, who with a healthy Embiid, would be great matchups for the Sixers. Regardless, if the Sixers have a healthy Embiid it’s a nightmare matchup for any of the top teams.

The night and day difference Embiid makes for the team has never been more obvious than in the past month. Embiid’s presence is key to the Sixers’ playoff chances, so the team has to do whatever is right to make sure he’s there in the postseason.


The biggest question surrounding the return of Embiid besides his overall health is whether he and the team can go back to playing prior to his injury. Until then, the Sixers have to pull it together and put up enough wins in hope that Embiid will return at some point this season.


Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

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