According to numerous sources and reported by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is going to have a second surgery on the navicular bone of his right foot and will almost certainly miss the entire 2015-16 NBA season.
Embiid had a first surgery just days before the 2014 NBA Draft, where the Sixers made him the third overall pick after both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks decided to pass on the 7-foot native of Cameroon. Embiid spent what would have been his rookie season rehabbing the foot and everything seemed to be going fine until last month when a CT scan showed that his foot was not healing as fast as it should have. After Embiid visited with specialists in both New York and North Carolina, the decision was made to go ahead with a second surgery to try to fix the problem.
On Saturday night the Sixers released an official statement about Embiid and his future which says in part:
“After receiving the input of the aforementioned medical experts, as well as conversations with Joel and his representatives, there was careful consideration given to a number of options related to this particular situation. A collective decision has been made that the best approach to promote full healing would be to proceed with a bone graft of the fracture site. We anticipate the procedure will take place in the next 7-10 days and result in Joel missing the upcoming season.”
At this point Embiid has yet to play a single game of basketball in a Sixers uniform and some are worried that this latest setback may result in that never happening. Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets suffered the same type of injury in 2008 and it eventually was the cause of him having to retire from basketball in 2011.
It is also becoming fairly obvious that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie saw this coming and the result was the drafting of center Jahlil Okafor out of Duke at last month’s NBA draft. Okafor impressed many in the just completed Utah summer league where he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds. He still has a lot to work on, such as turnovers and his free throw shooting, but there is a ton of raw potential there.
Enough that maybe the Sixers won’t need or want Embiid once he is healthy.
If there is a silver lining in any of this, it has to be regarding the fate of center/power forward Nerlens Noel. A healthy Embiid would almost have certainly meant that the Sixers would have traded their defensive specialist with the addition of Okafor to the mix. Now with Embiid out for next season, it will give everyone a chance to see what a Noel/Okafor tandem can do on the court and if they could be the future of the Sixers’ frontcourt for the long-term.
Because it seems it may be quite a while before anyone gets to see if Joel Embiid has a place in that future.