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76ers hopeful Joel Embiid could return for part of Heat series, but no timeline yet

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors - Game Four

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers warms up ahead of Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on April 23, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

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In a playoffs where six All-Stars already missed time in the first round changing series, Philadelphia has suffered the biggest game-changer of them all: 76ers MVP-finalist Joel Embiid is out indefinitely with an orbital bone fracture and concussion.

He is listed as out heading into Game 1 against the Miami Heat on Monday, but there is hope Embiid could return later in the series, according to multiple reports. Philadelphia just doesn’t know yet. However, there is reason to hope this will not require surgery, which would have him out for weeks. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Longtime Sixers reporter Derek Bodner wrote this in his Daily Six newsletter:

At this point the belief is that Embiid’s current fracture won’t require surgery, which means a potential return at some point during the series against the Heat has not been ruled out, according to sources. Currently, Embiid is listed as out, and the team says they will provide further updates as appropriate.

All of this echoes what Jeff Stotts at In Street Clothes said after the injury was announced Friday night — it’s hard to predict how long someone is out with an orbital bone fracture, but the average time is about 10 games. Some players return wearing a mask after just missing a couple of games. It depends on the injury.

Shelburne noted that the concussion will likely have Embiid out for the first couple of games of the series.

Still, the news of a possible Embiid return is a beacon of hope for a 76ers team that needs him if it’s going to knock off the top-seed Heat. Embiid averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game against a Raptors team that was undersized but loaded up on him in the first round. That follows a regular season where he led the league in scoring at 30.6 points per game. And that’s not even getting into his elite rim-protecting defense.

Embiid was already playing through a torn thumb ligament in his right hand that will require offseason surgery, but he was able to dominate against the Raptors despite that.

The injury occurred Thursday with four minutes left in a game where the 76ers were ahead by 29, when Pascal Siakam drove the lane and inadvertently elbowed Embiid in the face.