Joel Embiid called his return to the court “rusty” and coach Doc Rivers said the newly crowned MVP had “growing pains.” Even so, the Sixers were happy to have Embiid back in action Wednesday night, but they’ll need him to play much better to give them a chance to get past the Celtics, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.
Returning from a sprained LCL in his right knee, Embiid played nearly 27 minutes and contributed 15 points, three rebounds and five blocks, but Boston dominated the second half of Game 2 to even up the series. It was Embiid’s first appearance since he suffered the injury on April 20, and he and the team believed it was important for him to resume playing as soon as possible to help reestablish a rhythm.
Embiid added that his injury would normally keep him sidelined for about four to six weeks, and he accepts that he’s not going to be 100 percent during the series.
“I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I’m feeling if I would have come back in Game 3. Probably rusty and not myself,” he said. “But I feel like I just got this out of the way. Disappointed by the loss, but that’s a step towards getting back to myself.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Rockets and maybe a couple more teams are likely to make a run at Nets forward Cameron Johnson in free agency, John Hollinger of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Alex Schiffer about Brooklyn’s offseason. Hollinger expects Johnson’s next contract to start in the $20MM range, which creates a challenging situation for the Nets, who are about $10MM below the luxury tax line. Re-signing Johnson without cutting salary elsewhere would subject Brooklyn to the repeater tax for a team that’s unlikely to be among the top contenders in the East. Hollinger believes Royce O’Neale‘s $9.6MM contract would be easy to move if they keep Johnson, or the front office could consider stretching the final-year salaries for Joe Harris or Patty Mills.
- The Nets may not keep both first-round picks they have at No. 21 and 22, but French shooting guard Rayan Rupert is a name to watch in that range, Hollinger adds. Schiffer notes that general manager Sean Marks has traveled to New Zealand twice to watch Rupert in action.
- Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are the most likely players to move if the Raptors are looking for an offseason roster shakeup, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen creates trade tiers for Toronto’s roster and considers Scottie Barnes to be the only player who’s “practically untouchable.”