The Philadelphia 76ers have not been the same team without Joel Embiid.
He has sat out eight games with knee soreness since the All-Star Game (where he played 21 minutes, but that’s another discussion). The Sixers are 4-4 in those games, including losing 3-of-4, with a -1.8 net rating. The problem has been on offense, where Philadelphia is has a net rating of 105.2 in those eight games, tied for second worst in the NBA over that stretch.
Sunday, in a critical game against Indiana, Embiid plans to return, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
The Sixers have not confirmed this yet. Coach Brett Brown hoped Embiid would play Sunday but said on Friday (via NBC Sports Philadelphia):
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just know it can’t come soon enough. But I truly don’t know for sure. I hope so, but I can’t say for sure.”
Embiid is averaging 27.3 points and 13.5 rebounds a game, playing at an All-NBA level this season. The Sixers have been 11.8 points per 100 possessions better with Embiid on the court this season. Plus, with 16 games left, Philadelphia’s newish roster — with the mid-season acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris — needs all the time together to gel that it can get.
Philadelphia enters Sunday one game back of Indiana for the three seed in the East. The 76ers want to climb up past the Pacers in the standings to avoid a first-round 4/5 matchup with the Boston Celtics, another of the elite teams in the East and one that has had Philadelphia’s number the past couple of years.