Sixers' Joel Embiid plays strong game vs. Hawks but keeps having health issues pop up

Health issues keep popping up for Embiid, even after strong, 40-minute night originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Joel Embiid on Saturday night played a season-high 40 minutes and led the Sixers over the Hawks with 42 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals.

Based on his comments after the game, the 40 minutes weren’t the most pleasant physically.

Embiid sat down at the postgame press conference podium with tape on his left ankle. He said the ankle was “pretty sore,” but that he planned to play both legs of the Sixers’ weekend back-to-back. The team will host the Jazz on Sunday.

The five-time All-Star was also asked about a right shoulder issue that’s appeared to bother him occasionally over the past week.

“I don’t know,” he said. ”I don’t know what happened, but some days I can’t lift my arm up and when I go block shots, I really feel it. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s whatever.”

He’s had tape on the shoulder at times, including when he warmed up before the Sixers’ matchup last Friday with the Knicks. Embiid ultimately missed a third consecutive game that night because of a non-COVID illness but returned for the Sixers’ win Monday over the Suns

In terms of his conditioning, which has been in the spotlight after he experienced plantar fasciitis that halted his progress this summer, Embiid largely seems to think the evidence is speaking for itself.

“From game to game, obviously I’ve been way better than I was when I came back against Phoenix,” he said. “Against Phoenix, I really couldn’t play more than three or four minutes at a time, and I think tonight at one point I played, like, 15 minutes straight. So it’s getting there. Whatever it takes to win.”

Embiid’s 42 points raised his season average to 29.3. Through nine games, his true shooting percentage is 61.6, an identical figure to last season. Embiid has been worse from behind the arc (8 for 33 from three-point territory) but better in the mid-range (40 for 81 on two-pointers not at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass).

“I’m good,” he said. “Since the season started, I’ve been good. … Obviously the standards for me are a little different. Even before, I was still averaging 28 and playing good defense. Since I’ve come back, I really feel like I’ve taken another step defensively. The standards are high and I’m OK with that.

“I’ve got to do whatever it takes to win, if it means playing 40 minutes a night, or shooting 20, 30 times, or getting my teammates involved and trying to get 10 assists or whatever. And whatever it takes defensively, I’ll do that.”

Health, however, has been a near-constant concern.

Sixers assistant Sam Cassell handled postgame media duties Saturday night and naturally faced a few Embiid questions. Head coach Doc Rivers had a difficult day, attending his close friend’s funeral in the morning, and Cassell subbed in.

He put his own comedic spin on inquiries related to Embiid’s status, including whether the big man would play against Utah. For what it’s worth, neither Embiid nor De’Anthony Melton, who sat Saturday with back stiffness, appeared on the Sixers’ Sunday afternoon injury report. Furkan Korkmaz (left knee effusion) is out.

“That’s a question for … Sam Cassell,” Cassell said with a laugh. “(Embiid is) feeling good. I think he’ll play.”

And did Cassell know why Embiid had been grabbing at his shoulder?

“Jo grabs everything,” he joked.