“It’s frustrating. That’s the second time. Last year it happened. Extremely frustrating, I’ll tell you that,” the Sixers’ centerpiece told reporters. Embiid last suited up on April 6 for a win over the Bulls. That left knee has dogged him throughout the season, most notably during a spell after the All-Star break where he sat out eight straight games.


After trades to pick up Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler this season, Philly enters the playoffs with one of the league’s thinnest benches, especially at center. Cobbling together playing time at the 5 will be tricky in Embiid’s absence. Boban Marjanovic is a modern marvel, but he can’t give you long stretches of playoff minutes, nor can he be remotely trusted to help contain, say, Spencer Dinwiddie in a pick-and-roll. The same goes for Amir Johnson, who has logged 20 minutes just twice this season. The Sixers may end up leaning hard on rookie Jonah Bolden, and—god help them—Mike Scott to fill the gaps.

The Nets, a lovable array of weirdos who had absolutely no defensive answer for Joel Embiid, can let out a collective sigh of relief. Between Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, their talent at point guard was already a useful weapon in a matchup against the Sixers, who have struggled to guard that position. Now that the series’s most talented player is questioning his health, the Nets might see a genuine chance to sneak into the second round.