Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers Sixers
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Earlier this month, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid joined the list of NBA stars to test positive for COVID-19. But while many players have moved past the virus rather quickly, Embiid wasn't that lucky. Shortly after his diagnosis, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Embiid was "not doing great."

On Saturday night, following his return to the lineup, we learned just how much Embiid was struggling. Between difficulty breathing and headaches that he felt were worse than migraines, he was worried at one point that he wouldn't make it through. Embiid is a known jokester and cracked a bit of a smile when he said the latter, so it's possible he was being a bit facetious. But there's no doubt that he was extremely sick over the past few weeks.

"It hasn't been good. That jawn hit me hard," Embiid said. "I really thought I wasn't going to make it. It was that bad. So I'm just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I'm just glad that I got over it and I'm here doing what I love with some good people."

After missing nearly three weeks and nine games, Embiid was in action on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was thrown right back into the fire, playing 42 minutes in the Sixers' double-overtime loss. Embiid, who finished with 42 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, said it was a "miracle" that he played that much in his first game back. 

Unfortunately for Embiid and the Sixers, his massive effort went to waste. After battling back from a 20-point deficit in the second half, and forcing a second overtime in miracle fashion on an Andre Drummond tip-in, the Sixers just couldn't get over the line. They even had a three-point lead in the final minute, but Naz Reid and Taurean Prince scored back-to-back buckets to give the Wolves the win. 

The Sixers went 2-7 in Embiid's absence, and have now dropped to 2-8 in their last 10 games. After a hot start, they're tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference at 10-10. The good news is that Embiid is back, and the Eastern Conference is so crowded that they're only three games out of second place.