Joel Embiid played 35 minutes for the Sixers in their 120-96 win in Indiana on Thursday night, and as much as you admire his ambition in playing through overt back pain, it was a very questionable organizational decision. Embiid’s injury history is well documented, they’re committed to him financially for the long run, and exacerbating the injury would be a disaster. Charles Barkley, on Inside the NBA, really took the franchise to task.
“They’ve got to be the stupidest organization in the history of sports, Barkley said. “You’ve got a franchise player who’s got a bad back, who’s injury prone — he can barely walk. And you’ve got him out here playing in a meaningless regular season game … You gave the guy $150 million, he’s got a bad back. He’s clearly laboring. Why is he playing?”
Shaq interjected that this was Embiid’s desire — he spoke after the game about being a “warrior” and not wanting to let his teammates down — to which Barkley responded: “Sometimes your coaches and owners have to protect you from your own stupidity. There’s many times I played in a basketball game, and I shouldn’t have played. Anybody who’s watching the guy can see the guy’s laboring.”
Barkley is absolutely right here: The Sixers have much more to lose than to gain by playing Embiid in this circumstance, and if his back injury gets worse when he’s playing there are going to be torches and pitchforks in Philadelphia.