PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid said after Wednesday night’s 118-112 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Wells Fargo Center that he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.
“I’m not sure,” the Philadelphia 76ers star said after collecting 29 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block in 39 minutes against Cleveland. “I’m not healthy. I haven’t been healthy for the past three weeks, or month. I was just trying to get to the All-Star break without missing games and stuff. But I feel like I’ve reached the point where I need to follow the doctor’s advice. … Back then he said I should have been sitting for two weeks, so we’ll see how the next few days go, and go from there.”
Embiid was questionable to play against Cleveland because of left foot soreness — the exact designation he has had for the past several games. He played in each of them, but only after testing his foot out pregame and getting the go ahead by the team about 30 minutes before tipoff.
It hasn’t stopped Embiid from being productive. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for both December and January, and is second in the NBA in scoring behind Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.
But when asked if being an injury replacement for All-Star starter Kevin Durant serves as motivation for him to try to win the game’s Most Valuable Player award, he said his focus will instead be on getting healthy.
“I haven’t been healthy,” he said. “I’ve been having this lingering foot issue. According to the doctors, which needs a lot of rest and staying off my feet.
“Like I said, the focus is on winning, especially getting ready for the second half of the season and the playoffs. I’m focused on winning a championship. If that helps me get there healthy, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to see how it goes.”
Against Cleveland, Embiid became the fastest player in 76ers history to score 10,000 career points, passing Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson. Embiid said he was honored to be associated with someone like Iverson, but noted that his goal is to win games, not collect accolades.
“It’s great,” he said of setting the goal. “Just like you said, I’m extremely lucky. But then again, I’ve put in a lot of work to be able to put myself in those positions, no matter what it is on the floor. To be able to make something happen, I’m extremely lucky. But then again, I put in the work. I’m just proud it contributes to winning. It doesn’t matter how much you score. As long as you win, that’s what matters.”
Teammate Tyrese Maxey said he’s constantly in awe of the things Embiid is able to do.
“I tell you all the time, I try not to take it for granted, because some of the things he does on the basketball court, I’ve never seen before,” Maxey said. “For him to do it at his size and do it at the high level he does it every single night is remarkable, and we’re going to need him.
“One of the keys to this year is staying healthy. Him, everybody. If we can just stay healthy, I feel like this team has a really good chance, and the sky is the limit.”
Staying healthy has been a top focus for Embiid throughout the season, and he has said on multiple occasions that he hopes to avoid the kind of freak injuries that have plagued him in the past — particularly in the postseason.
But after Philadelphia stormed out to a 28-point first-half lead, only to hang on down the stretch in a game that got as close as four points within the final minute, the 76ers were simply happy to go into the All-Star break with another win.
“I loved how we came out [to start the game],” coach Doc Rivers said after the Sixers won their fourth straight and 13th in their past 16 games. “I thought we had the right intentions. We just couldn’t sustain it. That’s something we have to do better.
“Tonight was almost finding a way not to win towards the end, but we held on. Listen, we’re playing really well right now, so we’ll take the win.”