76ers Rumors: 'Optimism' Injured Joel Embiid Could Return for Game 3 or 4 vs. Heat

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 1, 2022

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts during Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, April 25, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid reportedly won't travel with the team for Game 1 or 2 of the second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

There is still reportedly "optimism" he could return for Game 3 or 4 if he clears concussion protocol.

The Sixers announced Friday that Embiid would be sidelined indefinitely because of a right orbital fracture and mild concussion suffered in their series-clinching win over the Toronto Raptors. He was injured after taking an elbow to the face from the Raptors' Pascal Siakam.

Embiid, who averaged 26.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the first-round series, was already playing through a torn thumb ligament on his right hand.

The injury issues arose after the MVP candidate played a career-high 68 games during a regular season in which Philly posted a 51-31 record.

DeAndre Jordan figures to slot in as the replacement in traditional lineups, but the Sixers will likely utilize a lot of small ball without their franchise cornerstone available. Georges Niang, Matisse Thybulle and Paul Reed could all see more minutes.

A lot more pressure will also fall on the shoulders of James Harden to carry the 76ers offense until Embiid is cleared to return. The longer his absence, the tougher it will become for Philadelphia to keep its championship hopes alive.

The Eastern Conference Semifinals will begin Monday in Miami, and Game 3 is scheduled for Friday in Philadelphia.