The last time Joel Embiid played a game in Denver was November 8, 2019... a cool 1,236 days ago. That's not because the team hasn't traveled there, mind you. In fact, they did travel there, just this Monday. Embiid just happened to be out with a calf injury and noted fatigue.
There’s certainly some merit to Embiid’s calf injury, which was noted to be bothering him as early as last Monday (at home, against the Bulls). He fouled out of that game, but not before playing 44 minutes in a game they lost in double overtime. So, yeah, there’s probably some truth to that!
Still, some were skeptical that his absence wasn’t at least in part due to a fear of returning to play at the Nuggets in Denver for the first time since 2019.
After all, his last appearance in Denver didn’t end particularly well, did it?
There’s also the idea that Embiid kind of totally and completely dominated during their first meeting back in January. It was a statement game for Embiid at home, scoring 37 points with 18 boards and five assists, shooting 57.1% from three. In the same game, Jokić posted 24 points, 8 boards and 9 rebounds — one of his more humble stat lines on the season.
Could Embiid repeat that dominance in Denver? If Jokić outshines him, does recency bias kick in and hurt his chances to win MVP?
So what is it??? Is he injured, or did he duck out??? The people have thoughts. ⬇️
This kid printed a missing person’s poster for Joel Embiid. Bless his heart.
Here’s what I think: My totally unbiased and uninformed brain says that Embiid’s absence was probably totally due to injury… but it also probably didn’t hurt that his absence provided an opportunity to not hurt his MVP stock.
It’s a really, really close race. So close, in fact, that it's basically a coin flip. Nikola Jokic is currently the favorite at +110, with Joel Embiid just barely a hair behind him at +125. It's worth noting — Embiid had been ahead of Jokic in the race, prior to Monday's missed game.
In terms of figuring out just how injured Embiid really is, time will tell. The Sixers host the Mavericks Wednesday night, tipping off at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.