Philadelphia 76ers fans surely feared the worst when Joel Embiid limped off the court during a game against the Washington Wizards earlier this month, but the big man might be closer to a return than some initially expected.
"I'm told Joel Embiid is actually feeling a lot better than he expected in the first few days of his injury," Shams Charania of Stadium reported. "I would not be surprised if he's really pushing that two-week timetable and might even be able to come back earlier."
An MRI revealed a bone bruise but no structural damage in his knee.
Despite the optimism, Charania pointed out he still expects Embiid to take his time returning given the importance of the playoffs and his own injury history.
The Kansas product missed his first two seasons in the NBA because of injuries and is yet to play more than 64 games in a single season. His health concerns are the only thing that has truly prevented him from consistently elevating to an MVP level, but he was playing at that level this season before the injury.
He is averaging 29.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game and is firmly in the MVP discussion if he can return and maintain that type of play while leading the 76ers to a favorable seed in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia has relied on Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley down low with Embiid sidelined and will likely continue to do so until he returns.
The 76ers are 29-13 and one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East. Getting Embiid back and healthy will be the most important thing for the team's championship chances.