The entire Sixers team and fan base felt pure agony on Monday night after it seemed that Joel Embiid seriously injured his knee in Game 4 against the Wizards. It truly felt as though the season was over. It is no secret that Joel Embiid is the best player on the team and one of the most dominant players in the NBA. It is also no secret he has an extensive injury history that always seem to happen at the worst times, but with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference this year and his MVP caliber play this year, it gave us fans the real hope for an NBA championship.
Now that it has been revealed that it is a small tear in Embiid’s knee, some of the fan pain is relieved but not completely erased. With the first round officially finished it is time to refocus on the future of this playoff run and what can be done to limit the risk of Embiid’s reinjury. While a small tear is not the worst-case scenario, it will continue to affect him for the rest of this playoff run as a small tear in the meniscus is not going to be able to fully heal in the near future. The only way his knee will recover at all, is rest and treatment and it is up to the coaching staff and his teammates to give him as much time as humanly possible. If he is forced to come back to soon, the chances of reinjury are too high to conceive that he could make it all the way to the finals, as the Lakers learned last night with Anthony Davis. The only way to provide Embiid with the most time off the team must be able to continue to perform and win games when he is not out there. The main adjustment that needs to be used to accomplish this is moving Ben Simmons to the center position while Embiid recovers.
In Game 5 of Wizards series, Doc Rivers made quite the adjustment by moving Ben Simmons to the center position, which compromised some of the rim protection Dwight Howard could have provided but gave the Sixers so much more. With Simmons at the center position, Doc was able to move Matisse Thybulle to the starting lineup which allowed the Sixers to unleash his all-NBA defense on Bradley Beal and give Simmons some rest on the defensive end. Simmons at center also allowed the Sixers to really switch pick and rolls 1 through 5 on pick and rolls which provided them with great versatility and it was an adjustment that caught the Wizards dynamic duo of guards by surprise. This is very replicable against the Hawks whose offense is similarly initiated by either one of their dynamic guards, Trae Young or Bogdan Bogdanovic. Offensively, with no true center on the court the Sixers were push in transition and get easier baskets before the defense gets set to replace the offense that Embiid creates. With these adjustments in the lineup and continued production from the Sixers role players, Embiid should be able to rest at the very least for Game 1 and maybe longer if the team is able to protect home court in his absence.
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