Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was upgraded to probable for Thursday night's Game 3 matchup against the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, according to Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Embiid has missed the team's last 10 games with a left orbital fracture.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that Embiid will "go through pregame warm-ups beforehand to make sure he feels OK. Then, final call. But obviously looks good at this point."
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports added:
The news is a major upgrade from Wednesday, when Embiid was listed as doubtful on the injury report. And it's a major upgrade since the conclusion of Game 2, when Embiid was publicly frustrated over not playing and wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post, "F--cking sick and tired of being babied," (h/t Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com).
Embiid was still considered doubtful at shootaround Wednesday and hadn't been cleared for contact, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com, but his status is set to be finalized before tipoff.
"To just let him go out there right now (and play Game 3), it's still all on the table," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said earlier Thursday. "You guys know what I know. He did some contact (Wednesday), it's progressing. I don't feel like I can really share anything new."
The Sixers have been justifiably cautious with their star center. Keith Pompey of Philly.com reported Wednesday that a "shot to the left side of Embiid's face could do major damage. A source said a forceful blow to the orbital bone could even permanently damage the sight in his left eye."
Howard Eskin of Fox 29 added that the Sixers were fitting Embiid for a new face mask Wednesday:
Howard Eskin @howardeskin
The #Sixers were making new protective mask for @JoelEmbiid on Wednesday. One that would protect him from poke in the eye as well as the fractures. Not sure that it will make the doctors comfortable enough that he can play tonight. Also not practiced in 5 on 5 @SportsRadioWIP
While it remains possible that Embiid won't play in Game 3, it seems likely that the Sixers will have their star center back on the court. The return of a player who averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game is a major boost for a team that split the first two games with the Heat.
Embiid's defensive presence alone will force Miami to strategize differently, but his ability to create offense on the low block is huge for a team that is deadly in transition and beyond the arc but can stall out in the half court when the perimeter shots aren't falling.