Hours after Joel Embiid said after the Sixers' morning shootaround Saturday that he was "not healthy," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo revealed the rookie big man has "a very minor meniscal tear" in his left knee found in an MRI on Jan. 20.
"On the MRI that was conducted shortly after the injury vs. Portland, the MRI revealed obviously what we thought it to be — a bone bruise," Colangelo said before the Sixers' game against Miami on Saturday.
"There was also the recognition that there was a very minor meniscal tear. But it was not thought to be acute and it was not thought to be the source of the pain, inflammation or symptoms. That is the case."
Since the tear is not believed to be acute, the injury "likely or could have been pre-existing," according to Colangelo. Embiid is being treated for the bone bruise, Colangelo said.
"The bone bruise treatment and progression toward getting back to play is simply a pattern of loading and recovery and training that ultimately results in him being asymptomatic," Colangelo said. "Once he is asymptomatic, he'll be back on the court."
Embiid has missed nine straight games and 12 of the Sixers' last 13. Embiid missed three games after the Jan. 20 game against Portland, but then returned against the Rockets on Jan. 27 and suffered a left knee contusion. He's been out since and is still dealing with soreness and swelling.
Why let Embiid play against the Rockets on Jan. 27? According to Colangelo, Embiid's symptoms had subsided and symptoms were "non-reactive in any kind of way" in the four days of practicing leading up to the Houston game. It wasn't until Jan. 29 the swelling began, Colangelo said.
"From that time forward, we're back to the same path of trying to treat the symptoms, not the MRI, but once again as we look to get him back," Colangelo said. "We’re trying to do the best path toward him getting back on the basketball court. But all in all, it’s all about the long-term health and viability of the athlete.”
Derek Bodner first reported the injury. According to Bodner, it's a low-grade tear and it will not require surgery.
Embiid is not expected to return before the All-Star break. Colangelo said Saturday that it's "very unlikely" he plays before the All-Star break, citing lack of practice opportunities before then. The Sixers have two games this week before next weekend's break after Saturday's game against Miami. Colangelo also said Embiid will not participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge.
"He’s progressing well, but we’re still contemplating that if he doesn’t play in Charlotte on Monday or in Boston on Wednesday, he’s certainly not going to play in the Rising Stars game," Colangelo said. "But it’s more than likely we’ll hold him back until the end of the All-Star break, because that gives us the clearest path to a number of days where he can progress toward full health and recovery."
Colangelo said there was no reason to shut down Embiid because of the injury according to the medical information they have, and they will continue to treat the symptoms. He also pointed to Ben Simmons' potential return as a reason why he wouldn't shut Embiid down because the Sixers would like "an idea of exactly what we have."
"Once he's healthy and has fully progressed to the point where it's a clear path to a return to play," Colangelo said, "we'll get him back out there to play. But again, at this stage, once again, it's not thought to be a severe injury.
"If it was anything other than that, I'd be possibly singing a different tune."
CSNPhilly.com's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.