No matter how much he entertains us on Twitter, charms us in television appearances, and teases us with highlights from his injury-shortened season at Kansas; Joel Embiid will only truly appease the Philadelphia faithful if he is able to step on the court for the 76ers and enjoy a lengthy NBA career. The 3rd overall pick’s stress fractured Navicular bone almost certainly cost him an opportunity at being the 1st overall pick in the NBA Draft. Embiid’s ‘loss’ may end up being the 76ers gain if he doesn’t deal with the long-lasting, potentially career-threatening effects of the injury that derailed Yao Ming’s NBA tenure. That said, the uncertainty regarding the matter actually outweighs the gamble that the team took on Nerlens Noel last season, considering how effective ACL recovery procedures have become.
As Embiid continues his recovery in Los Angeles before he eventually makes his way to Philadelphia, interested parties continue to try to gather as many details pertaining to the potential success rate of the surgical procedure done on the seven-footer. The Inquirer’s Mike Sielski, in particular, decided to go to perhaps the most intimate source of information in regards to the particulars regarding Embiid’s recovery. Though there is substantial gray area remaining and it may be years before one could truly pass judgement on whether or not his surgery was a success, one has to place a fair amount of faith in the opinion of the man who operated on the Cameroonian big man. Sielski interviewed surgeon Richard Ferkel to get his opinion, almost a month later, as to whether 76ers fans can pair their delight with Embiid with some sort of assurance that he may help lead them to where Sam Hinkie continues to preach: a spot among the NBA’s elite.
“Once he’s fully healed, his chances of having a long career are very good…There’s no reason he shouldn’t have a great NBA career and be very successful. Once this heals, hopefully this won’t be an issue for him in the future…It’s certainly possible that he could come back this season…”
Obviously, any doctor is going to stand by his own work and put forth a level of confidence to maintain the best interests of his patient. That being said, Ferkel also divulged specifics of Embiid’s particular case that distinguish if from some of the past incidents that brought such fear to 76ers fans upon their team’s drafting of the injured Kansas product.
Embiid sustained what Ferkel called a “clean break” of the navicular – a weight-bearing bone in the middle of the foot – “without any major separation, which is important.”
It’s safe to say that there is almost no chance that Embiid will take the floor in a competitive capacity this season. Given the team’s trajectory and history with Noel, it seems as if risk-management is among the highest priorities of the team. Especially in a year where they figure to see themselves in the lottery once more, it would be devastating to have Embiid suffer a setback trying to take the court for a meaningless game. From a medical standpoint, at least, Ferkel’s diagnosis is a step in the right direction.