When Joel Embiid was first injured, head coach Brett Brown described the injury as a hyperextended left knee.
Then it became a knee contusion.
Then the knee contusion was transformed into a bone bruise.
Finally, on Saturday president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that an MRI after Embiid sustained the injury on Fri., Jan. 20 against the Trail Blazers revealed a tear in his meniscus. A “very minor” tear, according to Colangelo, who reiterated that the bone bruise is the bigger problem.
Colangelo emerged Thursday from the cone of silence apparently left in the office by former general manager Sam Hinkie, making an appearance on The Fanatic. One day later, Colangelo appeared on WIP, disabusing people of the notion that he was training to become a monk.
During his appearance on The Fanatic, Colangelo said it was doubtful that Embiid would play before the All-Star break. He also left open the possibility that Embiid and Ben Simmons, the top overall draft pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, may not play together this season.
During his WIP appearance, Colangelo responded to questions about the severity of Embiid’s injury by saying, “I really don’t understand the skepticism.”
I hope Colangelo was lying. If he truly doesn’t understand the skepticism, he’s completely out of touch with the world outside the 76ers’ bubble.
In addition to the shifting descriptions of Embiid’s injury, much of the skepticism stems from Embiid’s participation in a home game against the Rockets one week after injuring his knee. He missed three games, returned for the 123-118 loss to the Rockets, and then has missed the last nine games.
The initial skepticism involved doubts about the severity of Embiid’s injury. Why was he healthy enough to face the Rockets – he poured in 32 points – yet wasn’t healthy for any other game since sustaining the injury? Was it because ESPN altered its schedule so it could show the Sixers-Rockets game?
After letting speculation build for two weeks, Colangelo took to the airwaves on Thursday and Friday. Embiid told reporters on Friday that he’s not healthy enough to play. (Embiid was healthy enough dance on stage at a Meek Mill concert Friday night, but that’s another column for another day.)
The situation took another twist Saturday when Colangelo confirmed a report by Derek Bodner, formerly of Philadelphia Magazine, that Embiid has a meniscus tear.
The question is no longer why Embiid is sitting out so many games. The question now is why the Sixers risked Embiid’s health by playing him against the Rockets.
Playing Embiid runs counter to the way the Sixers have handled injuries to Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Ben Simmons. The Sixers have been extremely cautious, perhaps overly cautious, about putting players on the court before they’re ready to return. We’re supposed to believe, however, that the only game in the past 13 for which Embiid was healthy enough to play coincidentally happened to be a nationally televised home game?
Yes, I’m skeptical of the explanation. And I’m far from the only skeptic.
If Colangelo doesn’t understand the skepticism, perhaps he needs to emerge from his bunker a bit more often to gain an appreciation of the perspective from the outside.
Don’t be afraid, Bryan. The media and fans don’t bite.