BOSTON — Philadelphia 76ers superstar center Joel Embiid, who was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player on Tuesday night, is — barring any setbacks — set to return from the sprained LCL in his right knee in Game 2 of Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics, sources confirmed to ESPN.
After Embiid was ruled out for Philadelphia’s Game 1 victory Monday night about 90 minutes before tipoff, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there was optimism about Embiid’s return for Game 2.
And, after Embiid was the last player to appear on the court Monday morning, it was a total reversal when the team arrived at TD Garden for shootaround Wednesday morning, as he was the first player to walk into the arena bowl, quickly got his shoes on and began getting up shots for several minutes before the media’s 15-minute viewing period expired and shootaround got underway.
When asked during his MVP news conference after shootaround how he was feeling, Embiid said that there was a “possibility” he would return but that he will rely on the advice of the team’s medical staff to determine his availability.
“I’m going to listen to those guys and see what they have to say, the doctors, and obviously I want to play,” Embiid said. “Everybody who knows me, I just love being on the court and I love to play. There’s a possibility, and if I get the green light, we’re going to go ahead.
“But I feel pretty good, just like I felt about the last game. I felt like we had a huge opportunity and we were gonna win, and tonight, whether I play or not, I believe in those guys.
Embiid went through a full workout Tuesday, which sources said went well, but the determining factor for whether he would be available to play as early as Game 2 was how his knee responded the next day to that exertion.
“It’s just health-based,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday afternoon. “If he can play, he plays. If he can’t, he can’t.
“And if it’s 50-50, we would probably err on the other side [and not have him play], because we’ve done that all year.”
Now, if Embiid comes out of the shootaround and his standard pregame workout without incident, he’s expected to be back in the starting lineup for Philadelphia as it tries to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series after James Harden’s spectacular 45-point performance in Game 1 allowed the 76ers to stun the Celtics here at TD Garden without the league’s MVP.
Embiid suffered the injury April 20 when he landed awkwardly after contesting a shot by Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first-round sweep of Brooklyn.
The 76ers had hoped Embiid could be back as soon as Game 1 — especially after the Celtics lost Game 5 of their first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks last week, meaning this series wouldn’t start until Monday.
But after Philadelphia managed to steal Game 1 without Embiid, the 76ers will now try to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series with their superstar potentially returning to the floor.