Some Thoughts On Embiid
I’m neither a doctor nor an expert on probability and calculated risk, but I’m pretty good at detecting bullshit. And right now, my BS meter is making noises in a way that seems to indicate it’s trying to get my attention.
Some were quick to point out, in response to the headline of my previous post – Joel Embiid Is Hurt Again – that Embiid’s not hurt again, but that he’s simply recovering more slowly than expected, because that’s what the Sixers said in a prepared statement. And others, like Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers – one of the most knowledgable Sixers people on the planet – seem to be taking the news in stride:
But let’s not sugarcoat this: the Embiid news is bad.
Here’s what we know: Last night, at 9:43 p.m., Adrian Wojnarowski reported that that Embiid had a “setback” in his recovery, an “issue with the healing process.” Minutes later, the Sixers released the following statement (though they didn’t tweet it out… the league did) with words ostensibly written by Sam Hinkie and Sam Hinkie only:
“As part of the conservative approach focused on the long-term health, recovery and care of Joel, we have been closely monitoring his progress, regularly evaluating his status and adjusting our plans accordingly.
“Recently, Joel and Sixers personnel traveled to Los Angeles for a series of routine exams with a number of physicians who have been actively involved throughout this process. During his visit with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a standard CT scan on Joel’s right foot revealed less healing than anticipated at this point.
“Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career, and as such, these findings cause us to pause and reassess his current activities. Together with Joel and his representatives, we will continue to consult with the experienced team of doctors who have been an integral part of his evaluations, while also engaging in dialogue with a broader set of experts and specialists.
“Discussions regarding the appropriate next steps are currently ongoing and we will share an update once it becomes available.”
Releasing this information in the manner in which they did – from a highly trusted reporter and then having the prepared statement ready to go at, again, 9:50 p.m. on a Saturday night – tells you that the Sixers are doing everything they can here to soften the blow, especially when you consider Dei Lynam’s report that surgery is being discussed– just days after Embiid was a “shoe-in” to play in the Summer League.
We’ll give the Sixers the benefit of the doubt on this first bit of news, but I can’t not point out that “less healing than anticipated” sounds a lot like “it’s not a setback,” which is what Andrew Bynum told reporters in November of 2012, a statement that kicked off months of half-truths and misinformation from the Sixers with regard to their loony center’s debilitating injury. Granted, a different management team was in place then and the Sixers have been more forthcoming under Scott O’Neil’s stewardship. But they’re on a slippery slope here. For the most part, fans are on-board with the plan and, like O’Neil, Hinkie and Brett Brown, knew drafting Embiid was a risk, one that was probably worth taking. I’m firmly in that camp. But there’s no way to spin this as anything other than terrible news considering that Embiid’s original timetable, 12 months ago, was 5-8 months. And now that we’re facing the downside of the risk-reward platter, it will be in the Sixers’ best interest to be extremely forthcoming with updates. They’ve asked fans to buy in to a long-term plan that includes Embiid.
While the setback was out of their control (you can’t say “I told you so” unless you literally told them so, and most fans haven’t done that), messaging the news and further updates is very much something they have control over. Using a cleverly-worded press release and information dump late on a Saturday night is not the best way to start that process. I’m all for silence as a competitive advantage, but given the fact Sixers season ticket marketing collateral literally features a big picture of Embiid…
… it should be expected of them to be very open about his injury.
Side note: I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. Bob Ford and John Gonzalez both noted the suspicious timing of the release. Hell, after writing much of this post, I stumbled upon Gonzo’s take from earlier today, and it’s basically the same piece (great minds, no doubt).