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    Joel Embiid suffers knee injury in final minutes of 76ers loss to Warriors

    Defending NBA MVP Joel Embiid injured his left knee in the final minutes of the Philadelphia 76ers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night at Chase Center.

    With just over four minutes to play, Embiid was stripped by Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga while backing down Draymond Green. As Embiid dove for the loose ball, Kuminga dove as well and landed on Embiid’s left leg, just below the center’s knee.

    Embiid immediately clutched his knee in visible agony before exiting the court on his own power. He did not re-enter the game as Philadelphia went on to lose 119-107. Embiid scored 14 points in 30 minutes before exiting.

    “So he obviously got landed on, so they’re going to do an MRI tonight or tomorrow,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. Nurse added that the injury is unrelated to what has held Embiid out recently.

    In the first half against Golden State, Embiid walked gingerly to the locker room with a wrap on his knee after shooting 1-for-7 in 10 minutes in the first quarter.

    On Saturday, Embiid was a late scratch for the 76ers game against the Denver Nuggets. After going through his regular pregame warmup, Nurse said the team’s medical staff “just didn’t like what they saw” and decided it was safer to have Embiid sit for the much-anticipated matchup against Nikola Jokić.

    Throughout that game, Embiid was seen wearing a large wrap around his left knee. Embiid also missed the 76ers’ following game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

    After Tuesday night’s game, Nurse said the training staff felt comfortable clearing Embiid to play against the Warriors and that the center had felt good throughout the contest.

    Embiid has missed 12 total games this season and is six absences away from becoming ineligible for postseason awards. The NBA instituted a new rule ahead of the 2023-24 season that a player must participate in 65 games and log at least 20 minutes in those appearances to qualify for the MVP Award and selection on All-NBA teams.

    How bad is this for Embiid and the Sixers?

    As Nurse said, the MRI will tell all. But in speaking with players and coaches, there was a strong sense that Embiid would need to miss at least a few games as a result of the injury. There wasn’t, however, immediate concern that this was something far more serious. Again, however, that part won’t be clear until the MRI results are in.

    The problem for the Sixers is that they’ve lost four straight games and dropped to fifth place in the East in the process. They’ve been without their rising star guard, Tyrese Maxey, for three of those games because of an ankle injury. Nurse said before the Warriors game that the 23-year-old was likely to play on Thursday at Utah. If Embiid misses extended time, then all the positivity that came with their fantastic start could disappear quickly.

    As for Embiid, this injury runs the risk of taking him out of the MVP conversation before we even reached the All-Star break. And as some of his teammates shared afterward, that aspect of the situation is being met with widespread disapproval in Sixers circles. — Sam Amick, senior NBA writer

    Was the 65-game rule a mistake?

    That feeling appeared to be the consensus in the 76ers locker room after the game. As the Sixers’ Paul Reed and Kelly Oubre discussed, the pressure that has come with the league’s new rule could compel NBA stars to play when they shouldn’t.

    Only Embiid can speak to whether that was the case here, but the 29-year-old has been outspoken about his desire to be MVP in years past and it’s safe to assume his desire to defend his Michael Jordan trophy is strong this time around.

    “I didn’t sign up for that (65-game rule),” Reed said. “I don’t remember signing no paperwork, you feel me? I guess the union okayed it. They probably didn’t have a choice though, to be honest. Yeah, it’s tough. It adds a lot of pressure to the players. We were just talking about that. A lot of pressure, especially dudes like (Embiid who are) trying to get MVP again.”

    Add in the fact that Embiid was roundly ridiculed after his latest absence in Denver, and there’s a level of scrutiny that concerns his teammates.

    “(You’ve got people) pressuring him to force being great when he’s 300 pounds, seven-feet-five?” said Oubre, who exaggerated Embiid’s listed size of 7-feet and 280. “Like, c’mon bro. Yeah, he has to do what he has to do. I think this year, people will really understand that his whole career he’s been having to make sure his body’s right. This is like NASCAR, right? If their cars ain’t working, and their mechanics ain’t really able to get the job done before the race, then what can they do? They can’t race.

    “This is our bodies. Our body is our car and we have to treat it with respect. He’s 350 pounds, bro. So you know, I’m praying for him for a speedy recovery, so he can come in and give himself the best chance. But at the end of the day, that’s not important. His body and his career are most important.” — Amick

    GO DEEPER

    Amick: Joel Embiid deserved better, and the NBA’s 65-game rule game is flawed

    Required reading

    (Photo: Neville E. Guard / USA Today)

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