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Joel Embiid opens up about COVID-19, says it “hit me hard”

After missing nine games over three weeks, Joel Embiid was back on the court for the 76ers Saturday night, putting up 42 points and grabbing 14 boards in a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota.

After the game, Embiid was honest and said 24 hours earlier he didn’t think he could play because he was still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 that had sidelined him. Here’s his quote, via Noah Levick at NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“The first time I went up and down was probably two days ago,” Embiid said. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to play tonight after the workout last night. I really couldn’t go up and down more than three times.”

This was not a case of a player being asymptomatic with a breakthrough case; Embiid said the virus knocked him down for a while.

“It hasn’t been good. That jawn hit me hard,” Embiid said, employing a term from the Philly vernacular that can work for just about any noun. “I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad. So I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad that I got over it and I’m here doing what I love with some good people.”

Embiid’s value to the 76ers was evident, the team went 2-7 in the games he missed (Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle also missed time games in that stretch, and Ben Simmons remains away from the team saying he is not mentally ready to play).

Philadelphia has fallen back to 10-10 on the season, which has them tied for ninth in the standings in the East. With Embiid back, the 76ers are banking on making a run to push them back up the standings.