Joel Embiid will be sidelined at least a week because of tendinitis in his left knee, the 76ers announced on Wednesday.
The All-Star center had been dealing with knee soreness at different stages of the season. He sat out the Sixers’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 30 due to the soreness.
The team also announced that Furkan Korkmaz suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during the Sixers’ loss to the Boston Celtics on Feb. 12. The second-year guard, in the final year of his contract, is sidelined indefinitely and could undergo surgery.
In other news, Zhaire Smith was a partial participant at practice. He had been working out with the Sixers’ G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. He was recalled for the Sixers’ practice on Wednesday because of the Blue Coats’ home game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He’s scheduled to return to Delaware on Thursday to practice with the Blue Coats.
But Embiid’s knee was the hot topic at the conclusion of practice. Boban Marjanovic will start at center while Embiid remains sidelined.
“Evidently, it reached a stage where he felt uncomfortable with it,” coach Brett Brown said.
Brown said the Tuesday’s MRI revealed that it was “a little bit of tendinitis. It’s stuff I think is quite common, actually.”
Embiid started in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., finishing with 10 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and a block for Team Giannis. Team LeBron won the game, 178-164 loss. Embiid played a total of 23 minutes, 11 seconds.
Brown doesn’t think Embiid’s participation in the All-Star Game affected his knee.
“We’d all be making a mistake — it’s a natural dot connector and it shouldn’t be — to think that it had anything to do with it,” Brown said. “In fact, when you speak to the medical people, one of the things, at times, that exacerbates it is time off.”
Brown said keeping "some level of maintenance” is recommended. The Sixers’ last game before the All-Star break was Feb. 13 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Embiid had three days off before the All-Star Game. The team returns to action Thursday night against the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center.
“Maybe time off actually did more harm than good,” Brown said. “The bottom line is nobody needs to read into anything here. This is an NBA athlete that has some soreness in a knee that’s had an MRI. We should all move on.”
While noting that the Sixers will miss him, he said the move was made to keep him healthy, especially at the point of the season when it matters most.
The center is scheduled to undergo physical therapy and “load management.” He will be reevaluated in one week.
Embiid is fifth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points per game. He’s second in rebounds (13.5) and eighth in blocks (1.94).
The Sixers have three scheduled games over the next week: Thursday at home against the Heat; Saturday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Monday at the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Sixers are 1-3 in games without Embiid this season. They defeated the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 7 before losing to the Blazers, Atlanta Hawks (Jan. 11) and Denver Nuggets (Jan. 26).
The rookie Smith was expected to return in December after being sidelined with an acute Jones fracture in his left foot. However, he remained out due to the negative effects from an allergic reaction to something he ate back in September.
Brown said he’s unsure if Smith will play for the Sixers this season. That’s not the coach’s expectation. The hope is for him to play for the Blue Coats.
The coach, however, was impressed with what he saw on Wednesday. Brown said Smith was 50 to 60 percent as a partial participant.
“You know he ran around a little bit," Brown said. “He competed. It was great to see him. You are reminded of how athletic he is. He had a bounce today. It’s just good to have him included with his teammates.”
Making sense out of Markelle’s comment
Brett Brown was asked Wednesday about the comments Markelle Fultz made during his introductory news conference with the Orlando Magic last week.
The 76ers traded the former first overall pick before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Fultz, who has played only 33 career games due to injuries, called the trade a “fresh start.”
Some thought Fultz also criticized Brown and the coaching staff.
“It just excites me to know that I have a coach that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear,” he said.
Brown said that Fultz “didn’t mean that." Brown said the two have spoken back and forth.
“He’s a good kid,” he said. “He’s a good young man, and truly we wish him well.”