Joel Embiid is having the best season of his career thanks in large part to his improved durability. The 76ers center is averaging 33 minutes per game this season -- second-most of his career -- and has played in 31 of Philadelphia's 38 games, with many of those absences either precautionary or due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.
Embiid is facing a possible two-to-three-week absence with a deep bone bruise in his left knee, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. An MRI on his knee showed no structural damage, which means the ACL and meniscus are fine. Considering many feared he suffered what could have been a significant injury, there's relief within the organization that it isn't something much worse, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The play came in the third quarter of Philadelphia's game against the Washington Wizards on Friday. Embiid went up for a dunk and landed awkwardly, seemingly hyperextending his left knee. He walked off of the floor under his own power, but with a meaningful limp and did not return to the game.
Embiid is currently the betting favorite to win the MVP award, and his 76ers occupy the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Both of those things could be jeopardized if Embiid misses more than three weeks, though. The 76ers have a 2-5 record in games Embiid has missed this season, a trend that has existed throughout his career. There is no set amount of games any MVP candidate needs to play, but with LeBron James and Nikola Jokic barely missing any, Embiid will need to return quickly if he is to retain his favorite status.
But more importantly, Philadelphia's championship hopes rely almost entirely on Embiid's health. Their season could functionally be over if he were to miss a good chunk of the season. This play appeared to be little more than a case of bad luck, but given his history of injuries, any minor tweak is dangerous for Embiid.