Joel Embiid Unfairly Criticized for Missing Denver Game

by Marc Narducci | Feb 7, 2024
Joel Embiid Unfairly Criticized for Missing Denver Game
There are so many layers to the latest left knee injury by 76ers seven-time All-Star Joel Embiid, but one thing that LeBron James said really stuck out. James was calling out all who criticized Embiid for missing the 76ers Jan. 27 game in Denver due to left knee soreness.

For various reasons, Embiid hasn’t played in Denver since 2019 and this year the narrative was that he was ducking a matchup with last year’s NBA finals MVP Nikola Jokic.

First off, nothing could be further from the truth.

On Jan. 16 in Philadelphia, the Sixers beat the Denver Nuggets, 126-121 as Embiid had a monster game. He scored 41 points, while adding 10 assists, seven rebounds and one block.

In his defense, Jokic also played well with 25 points, 19 rebounds (11 on the offensive glass), three assists, one steal and one block.

During this game, Jokic was outplayed by Embiid, no reason for embarrassment.

Somehow, when the Sixers traveled to Colorado for the rematch, the Denver fans believed that Embiid was ducking Jokic, when he was sitting out.

The Sixers didn’t help the matter by not putting Embiid on the injury report “in an accurate and timely manner” according to the NBA. That cost the Sixers a $75,000 fine.

The Denver fans gave Embiid a hard time and apparently many in the media bought into the narrative.

Anybody watching the game and seeing how Embiid was limping afterwards when he was talking to Jokic, would realize, he was not able to play in an NBA game that afternoon in Denver.

Still, the criticism came.

Embiid would then sit out the Sixers next game two nights later in Portland.

Then came last Tuesday when Embiid suffered an injury to the same knee in a 119-107 loss to the host Golden State Warriors, the day after the Portland game. It was hard to watch Embiid laboring through 30 minutes of action (and shooting 5-for-18). It looked like Embiid never should have taken the court, and he left the game for good after Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga fell on his knee.

On Sunday night the Sixers released this update on Embiid: “Joel Embiid will have a corrective procedure this week to address an injury to the lateral meniscus in his left knee. An update will be provided following the procedure.”

It was James, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, who pointed a finger at those criticizing Embiid for not playing, especially in Denver.

James tweeted: “Where are all the media outlets, TV media personalities, hot takes that talked so much about Joel Embiid about missing those games when he knew what he was dealing with.”

Here are a few key questions—(1) Was Embiid trying to return to the court faster than he should have due to all the criticism? (2) Was he trying to keep his MVP hopes alive? (The NBA passed a new rule this year that for a player to be eligible for postseason awards, he must play in at least 65 games. That means a player can only miss as many as 17 games. Embiid has already missed 14). (3) Was Embiid simply looking to help his team and that is why he tried playing against the Warriors?

Either way, when a player is injured, nobody but that player truly knows how he feels.

Embiid’s list of injuries over the years have been well-documented. When a player is 7-2 and weighs upwards of 300 pounds, the constant pounding on a basketball court is likely to take more of a toll than of a player much smaller in stature.

The bottom line is that Embiid owes nobody an explanation. If he is not playing, there has to be a reason (even if that reason is simply to rest).

Embiid would be best to get off social media and not worry about what is written, especially by those who don’t have all the pertinent information.

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia 76ers


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Author: Marc Narducci


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