NBA

Sliding 76ers 'hopeful' Embiid could make playoffs after knee surgery

By Sports Desk February 10, 2024

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey is hopeful the team could have Joel Embiid available for a potential playoff run, after the NBA MVP was forced to undergo knee surgery this week. 

Embiid has been sidelined since displacing a flap of the lateral meniscus in his left knee during the 76ers' 119-107 defeat to the Golden State Warriors at the end of January. 

That injury came on Embiid's return to action after he missed the team's previous two games with another knee problem. Last Sunday, Philadelphia confirmed that Embiid would go under the knife to correct the issue, throwing his availability for the rest of the season into doubt.

The 76ers currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 30-21 record, though they are 4-12 in games Embiid has missed this season. 

They have lost eight of their last nine following Friday's 127-121 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, with that run casting doubt over their championship aspirations. However, should the 76ers manage a deep playoff run, Morey is upbeat regarding Embiid's prospects of featuring. 

"We're hopeful," Morey said when asked about Embiid before Friday's game. "The feedback has been more good than bad since we first heard about what led to his procedure. 

"So, we're hopeful and we're building the team to make it better this year. 

"Obviously, it's not at 100 per cent. But with Joel playing at an MVP level, hopefully, he could get back to that. This is a year where we have a real shot.

"If the hope wasn't there in Joel, I think it would have changed things dramatically. 

"We're very hopeful. Obviously, it's not 100 per cent. It's something that is probably a good chunk short of 100 per cent, but we thought it was the right thing [for Embiid to have surgery].

"There's a lot of ways to not win the title. Winning a title is hard; Joel not coming back at the level we hope is one of the ways we can't win a title this year.

"But you always want to be among the best teams and that means taking risks on the injury front. That's where we are at right now."

Philadelphia looked to rebalance their roster ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, acquiring veteran guards Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne in separate deals while allowing Patrick Beverley, Danuel House, Furkan Kourkmaz, Jaden Springer and Marcus Morris Sr. to depart.

Morey believes Hield, in particular, will provide vital support to Tyrese Maxey during Embiid's spell on the sidelines, saying: "Our priority was to get a big, but we wanted to add to our playoff rotation.

"We have to win games and it's going to be a battle, but we were focused on playoffs, we have a rotation that we know can win at a high level. He [Hield] was the only player who moved teams that would play a big role in our rotation. What he brings to the table is pretty obvious."

The 76ers' latest defeat came at the hands of a Hawks team inspired by Trae Young, who had 37 points and 12 assists as Atlanta improved to 23-29 with an impressive road win.

"This isn't the easiest place to play, so coming in here and getting a win at any time is a good thing for us," Young said after the game. 

"We had some guys out, so we needed other guys to step up and they did."

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