Amidst the whirlpool of headlines surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers, all eyes are keenly set on their final preseason clash against the Atlanta Hawks this Friday, October 20th. Airing live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC Sports Philadelphia, the game serves as a litmus test for a Sixers team that has navigated murky waters due to James Harden's much-publicized trade request.
While Harden's absence in recent practices has been the talk of the town, Joel Embiid, the reigning NBA MVP, is predicted to shoulder a heavier on-court responsibility. Despite Embiid being conspicuously absent from the Sixers' three preseason outings, there's rising optimism that he will indeed suit up for the impending matchup with the Hawks.
Embiid's Preseason Status
Embiid's absence during preseason isn't necessarily a red flag. The Sixers have a documented history of cautiously managing his workload, and Embiid himself has been a fixture at practice sessions.
Given that the final preseason game will unfold in front of an eagerly awaiting Philadelphia crowd, it's highly likely that he will feature unless unforeseen circumstances dictate otherwise. Meanwhile, addressing Harden's recent practice absences, Embiid, who is entering his seventh year in the NBA, offered a diplomatically vague reply.
"I don't know. Maybe he has something to do. I'm not sure," Embiid told the media, refraining from adding fuel to the already rampant speculation surrounding Harden's availability for the season opener. Now at 28, Embiid is widely considered to be in the prime of his career.
He's coming off an MVP campaign with eye-popping stats—averaging 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. Moreover, he has a commendable three-point shooting average for a center, registering 38% last season.
As the Sixers approach their official season kick-off against a Damian Lillard-enhanced Milwaukee Bucks on October 26th, Harden's void looms large. But if there's any player capable of elevating the Sixers in these turbulent times, it's Joel Embiid, whose exceptional skill set is expected to be on full display come Friday night.