MIAMI -- In the end, he played 31 games.
Joel Embiid's rookie season is officially over, the Sixers announced on Wednesday. Embiid has not suited up since Jan. 27 and has missed 17 of the Sixers' last 18 games because of left knee injuries. An MRI taken Monday revealed a bigger meniscus tear than initially diagnosed but significant healing in the bone bruise.
The Sixers have only 23 games remaining and are not in playoff contention, lessening the urgency of Embiid’s return this season. Embiid concludes his rookie season averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.45 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per game.
"The assessment of Monday's follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid's left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan," Sixers chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said in statement released by the team.
Embiid suffered the injury on Jan. 20 against the Trail Blazers, played one game against the Rockets, and has not suited up since then. Last week the Sixers had targeted a return date of March 3 but changed that status changed to "out indefinitely" after Embiid still was experiencing swelling.
During an MRI taken the night of the injury, the results also revealed Embiid had a slight meniscus tear, which the team did not believe was related to the contusion.
Prior to the announcement, there was a strong reaction from the fans who were looking for transparency on the big man's status. Embiid expressed his displeasure last Thursday with the way the Sixers managed after he was informed he would miss multiple weeks.
"I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before," Embiid said at the time. "I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled."
The following day, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said he would have done things differently.
"We should have just said 'out indefinitely,' even though the treatment was still day to day," Colangelo said. "But the fact that there was uncertainty, I'll own that."
Embiid's short NBA career has been marked by injuries from the very start until now. He sat out his first two seasons with foot injuries. This year the Sixers took an ultra-cautious approach to their starred big man. He was placed under a carefully monitored minute restriction (capped at 28) and did not play on both nights of back-to-back games. Embiid reiterated throughout the season that after missing two years, he was exercising patience to benefit his long-term health.
When Embiid was on the court, though, he shined. He made NBA basketball look easy and he had his way at and away from the basket. Embiid did not appear in enough games to qualify him on the leaders' charts, but based on his raw stats he led all rookies in scoring and in rebounds. Teammate Dario Saric is second in both categories but still trailed Embiid by 8.9 points and 1.6 rebounds.
Embid ranks second among all players in blocks behind Jazz big man Rudy Gobert. In his first 31 games, he recorded nine double-doubles, which is first among rookies even though he has not played in over a month.
Embiid scored a career-high 33 points on Dec. 18 against the Nets and 14 rebounds on Jan. 14 against the Knicks. He dished five assists in three games and swatted five blocks in two contests.
The announcement of Embiid's status comes less than one week after Ben Simmons was ruled out for the season. Like Embiid did, Simmons will miss his entire first year with the Sixers. He suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot during training camp. Simmons received a bone marrow injection on Monday to speed up the healing. Both Embiid and Simmons are projected to be the centerpieces of the Sixers' future when they return next season.
Embiid is with the Sixers in Miami. Expect to see him around the team for the remainder of the season as he stays involved to further their team chemistry for the 2017-18 campaign.
While he works toward his return to the court and eyes his next official game months down the road, he will embrace his mantra.
As he's always done, Embiid will trust the process.