NBA

76ers’ Joel Embiid out for MVP showdown vs. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets due to calf soreness and fatigue

Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has been ruled out for Monday night’s MVP showdown against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter confirmed. Embiid has been battling foot and calf issues in recent weeks, and he told reporters recently that he’s going to need time off soon. He attempted to work out Monday morning, but the team is taking a cautious approach with the playoffs looming.

Embiid recently sat out of the second half during his team’s win over the Chicago Bulls on March 22 due to calf tightness. Then, following the team’s blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, Embiid revealed the toll that his major workload is taking. 

“I’m going to need one [game off] pretty soon,” Embiid said. “It’s two things. Like I said, it’s all about [being healthy] for the playoffs. You know, like tonight, I was very sloppy. Usually when I’m sluggish and sloppy that means I’m tired. Like you said, I’ve been playing a lot of minutes, I’ve been playing every single game.

“So to add to that, dealing with the calf and whatever the foot, I think at some point you gotta look at the bigger picture, which is the playoffs, obviously.”

Embiid has played in 33 of the last 35 games for the Sixers in what has been one of the most impressive stretches of his career — not just because of his play, but because of his durability. 

During an eight-game winning streak earlier this month, Embiid averaged 37 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and three blocks per game, while shooting 64.9% from the field and 44.4% from 3-point land, going on a scoring streak that only LeBron James has ever matched. He has done so while playing through a foot injury around the All-Star break and, more recently, a tight calf. If Embiid plays the remainder of the Sixers’ games aside from Monday’s matchup with Denver, he’ll match the most games payed in a single season in his career (68, which he also played last season). 

All of that has been good news for the Sixers, who are 49-25 and all alone in third place in the Eastern Conference. But this team has won plenty of regular season games in recent seasons, and it’s time for them to put it together in the playoffs. To do so, they’ll need to be healthy. Embiid said as much, and coach Doc Rivers made similar comments earlier this month. 

“We don’t want [Embiid] playing if [his calf is] sore,” Rivers said. “We’re at that point. Like if it was probably earlier in the year, everybody still plays. We’ve gone in the playoffs two years in a row with injuries. And we all learned, we all know you don’t win in the playoffs if your key guys aren’t healthy. Period. So we’re going to do whatever we can to be healthy.”

It is a letdown that Monday night’s showdown between the two leading MVP candidates is when the Sixers decide to finally give Embiid a night off, but they have to do what’s right for him and the team. This will also be the end of a four-games-in-six-nights road trip, which is a reasonable rest situation. 

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