Sixers center Joel Embiid returned to the court with a vengeance on Saturday after missing nine games due to health and safety protocols, pouring in 42 points, pulling 14 rebounds, and adding three assists and two blocks in his return.
Philly lost the game 121-120 in double overtime to the Timberwolves but the story of the evening was Embiid’s postgame press conference, where he shared the harsh realities of his battle with COVID.
Embiid, who was smack in the middle of an MVP campaign before reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 8 amid an outbreak of the virus on the team, says his personal bout with the virus was unbearable at times and at one point had him thinking he might die from the illness.
“It hasn’t been good. That jawn hit me hard,” said Embiid, who’s averaging 23.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. “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.”
“I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad.” 😳
Joel Embiid's bout with COVID-19 was worse than he ever imagined. pic.twitter.com/JE3zK0PElT
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 28, 2021
Philly (10-10) has struggled without their best player, but managed to stay at .500 or better in Embiid’s absence. They were 7-2 and riding a five-game win streak with Embiid before his bout with COVID. The situation could have been much worse for Philly as Embiid’s positive test came on the heels of Tobias Harris, Isaiah Joe and Matisse Thybulle all being placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Embiid also told reporters that he “couldn’t breathe” at times and had headaches “worse than a migraine.”
He also immediately reasserted himself as the leader of the team, placing blame for the loss squarely on his shoulders.
“I didn’t think I was going to play tonight,” Embiid said after the game. “To me, it’s a miracle I played this many minutes, but it’s good. Tonight is on me. I turned the ball over too much [four times] and missed a couple free throws.”
With everything he’s been through, the fact that Embiid showed up on the court is a huge lift to the spirits of Philadelphia 76ers fans, who are still dealing with the Ben Simmons saga and haven’t had a full squad on the floor all season.
The fact that the Sixers are just four games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Nets speaks to the parity of the league and is a reflection of Doc Rivers’ coaching prowess.
Having “The Process” back means the Sixers can start setting some real goals again, even as they figure out what the heck to do with the disgruntled Ben Simmons.
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