The Philadelphia 76ers came into the season with everyone talking about Ben Simmons and where he would end up. While that issue has still not been resolved, Joel Embiid reminded everyone at the weekend that there are more important things in life.
The superstar made his return to the court on Saturday night for the 76ers against the Minnesota Timberwolves, after he was forced to miss nine games with COVID-19. Following the 76ers’ 121-120 overtime loss to Minnesota, Embiid went into detail about his battle with the virus and the difficulties he was dealing with.
“That jawn hit me hard,” said Embiid, who is fully vaccinated. “I mean, 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 just here doing what I love with some good people.”
The four-time All-Star even went so far as to suggest that there were points that he didn’t think he was going to win the battle.
“I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad,” he told reporters.
Even opponents who he had clashed with in the past were happy to see Embiid back on the court after such a lengthy fight with COVID.
“We’ve had our thing for a while, but this is bigger than basketball,” Karl-Anthony Towns told NBA reporter Dane Moore, via Sportsnet. “That’s bigger than what we have. I’ve seen it kill people. And I’m glad he’s on the other side.”
While the Timberwolves ultimately came away with the victory on Saturday night, 76ers fans have to be happy that they have their superstar back on the court. Embiid was averaging an impressive 21.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in the 10 games he had played in this season prior to his return. The team really struggled without Embiid in the lineup, going 2-7 with him away and are now 10-10 for the season. They sit in 11th spot in the Eastern Conference and have some ground to make up on the rest of their rivals.
Despite missing nine games, Embiid didn’t miss a beat on the court, putting up 42 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in his first game back.
“Joel was phenomenal tonight, but we still lost the game,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “Give him credit. He’s obviously been working out.”
Along with Embiid, 29-year-old Tobias Harris also made his return to the lineup for the 76ers as well. Both had been listed as game-time decisions prior to the game, but fans were relieved to see both on the court for tipoff.
“It’s good to have Embiid back,” Harris said. “We missed him, for sure.”
It remains to be seen if the 76ers can turn their season around with Embiid back in the lineup, but they certainly have a daunting challenge ahead of them given how good some teams in the Eastern Conference have been this season. Philadelphia finished the regular season top of the conference last season, but that likely won’t be the case this year.