It's easy to forget what the Sixers were just two months ago.

They were a season-best 16 games above .500 after Joel Embiid set a franchise-record and career-high 70 points in a home victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Sitting pretty near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Eight days later, Embiid departed a loss to the Golden State Warriors with what was later defined as a meniscus injury.

He hasn't suited up since.

In that time, the Sixers are 10-16. They've been outscored by 6.1 points per 100 possessions, only better than the group of teams slap-fighting for positioning near the top of the draft lottery.

I think I'd be compelled to say it's looked uglier than those numbers suggest. Real shocker, by the way; the best player in the sport goes down and his team suddenly has more holes to fill than plugs with which to fill them.

So, 26 rather ugly games separate the now and our last memories of Embiid. Those last memories, by the way, have the context of a four-game road losing streak. Embiid didn't look right then, either.

The problem with memory is that it fuels recency bias. It's no one's fault. That's human nature. Your thoughts weigh what happened more recently heavier than what happened less recently.

But, in the case of the 2023-24 Philadelphia 76ers, that recency bias invites the question of whether Embiid should even return this season.

I think it's rather simple: memory might distort truth, but numbers don't lie.

The team is 26-8 in games Embiid has played thus far this season.

The Sixers have outscored the opposition by 8.7 points per 100 possessions with Embiid on the court this season, per Cleaning The Glass.

Both figures - winning percentage and net rating with Embiid - would put Philadelphia in the company of exactly one other team in the entire league: the title-favorite Boston Celtics.

Perhaps you're an ardent opponent of statistics. That's fine. Before Embiid went down, the Sixers racked up wins over the Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and Denver Nuggets.

They had the resume-building wins to support the elite metrics.

In other words, prior to February, the only argument you could make to cast doubt on the Sixers was to point at their playoff history in the Embiid era.

A valid argument, but one that can only be padded or shredded in postseason play and not a second earlier.

You may be dubious of the roster changes they made in February.

Patrick Beverley was a fan favorite; Marcus Morris Sr. was tough and canned some timely shots during his Sixers tenure; Furkan Korkmaz...was a good teammate.

Perhaps you scoffed at the Danuel House Jr. trade. House, by the way, has not been picked up since being bought out by the Detroit Pistons. Jaden Springer is an interesting prospect; if it ever came down to it, would he have gotten playoff minutes over KJ Martin or Ricky Council IV? You might read that as a dig at Springer; it's not. The reality is that he was unlikely to help the franchise win meaningful games over the next couple of seasons.

If the argument is that the supporting cast was better before the trade deadline and buyout season, the Sixers followed a win in the best scoring game of Tyrese Maxey's career with a 15-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a 16-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and a 23-point loss to the Warriors.

They were outscored by 15.6(!!!) points per 100 possessions over that four-game stretch.

The Sixers are 9-13 in the 22 games since the trade deadline. They've been outscored by only 4.5 points per 100 possessions in that span, per Cleaning The Glass.

To be clear, I don't say "only" to make it seem like that's close to a good figure. Minus-4.5 per 100 is not close to good. But, it sure as hell laps minus-15.6 per 100.

The Embiid variable was removed from both equations. But, the team of Maxey and the previous supporting cast was not even functional. Things haven't been great for the group that now features Buddy Hield and Kyle Lowry, but we can't sit here and pretend that the previous supporting cast was better.

Perhaps Beverley and Morris were tougher, and maybe that toughness translates to something in the playoffs. But, the tough guy act isn't as well received when opposing defenses are ignoring you when the ball lands in your hands and opposing offenses are blowing by you in space.

One reality is that any chance the Sixers had of staying afloat without Embiid relied on Tobias Harris being what he's been on average over the duration of his time with the Sixers, if not a little better than that. That way, the supporting cast wouldn't have to be so stretched beyond their ideal roles. But, Harris has devolved to a shell of himself since Embiid went down, making the game no easier for those lower in the pecking order. In fact, you might even say that his shortcomings have forced others to try to play above their heads to make up the difference. Of course, to little avail.

So, the instinct shouldn't necessarily be to say the supporting cast isn't good enough to help Embiid. Rather, it should be to say that a player of Embiid's magnitude will make the game easier for the supporting cast, thereby making them better and, in turn, helping the big fella.

Another reality is that it is far easier to opine from the outside that Embiid shouldn't come back than it is to look a competitive athlete in the face and ask them to forgo a playoff opportunity during their prime.

There are relationships to manage and political games to play. If Embiid has been working hard to return in time for the playoffs, how are you going to get him to buy into giving up on that goal?

Like it or not, players have never been more empowered than they are today. And with that comes the perpetual fear of a star requesting a trade. That isn't to say that Embiid would request a trade or threaten to make things uncomfortable for the Sixers - to be clear, this is not an implication or a report that that is at stake. But, it is to ponder what good would come from potentially upsetting Embiid by denying his clearance to return if he's healthy enough to do so.

The final reality is that no amount of rehabilitation or rest for this meniscus injury guarantees Embiid a clean bill of health for future playoff runs. He's 30 years old and, at his size and with his history, every single playoff opportunity he has should be cherished.

If the last objection is that the Sixers would have to face the Celtics in the first round anyway, I'm going to reverse the logic commonly shared by the team's fans in recent years. You can't dismiss the Sixers' regular season successes because of their playoff troubles and then go on to crown the Celtics simply because they blew away the field in the regular season.

Further, with 10 games left in the regular season, it's not a guarantee that Boston even is the first-round matchup. There is time for Embiid to return, the Sixers to reel off some wins (their final five games should be especially easy if the big guy is back), and the Celtics and Bucks to be avoided altogether. Are you going to tell me that a 3-versus-6 series with the Cleveland Cavaliers is too daunting of a task when the Sixers beat them without Embiid twice already this season?

Even if they are forced into the Play-In tournament, the Sixers would be one victory away from a date with the Milwaukee Bucks. Is it really Mission: Impossible to beat a team whose fifth starter is Malik Beasley, whose coach has the playoff flameouts that Doc Rivers does, and whose starting point guard would be target practice for Maxey?

This is not a question of whether the Sixers can find their stride between now and the playoffs if Embiid returns soon. It's not a question of fit; everyone will be better versions of themselves because of Embiid's presence. It is purely a question of whether the big guy is healthy.

So, as long as Embiid is healthy enough to be himself, the Sixers should absolutely bring him back for the playoffs.

Check Out Greater Atlantic City, NJ Area Athletes Who Played Games In NFL

Many people are not aware of the number of athletes from the Greater Atlantic City Region who have played in the National Football League. Football players who played at high schools in Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Ocean Counties have a strong representation in the NFL over the last few decades.

One of the most difficult accomplishments in sports is to make a Professional Sports Roster and earn the opportunity to play in a game at the highest level of the sport. Check out some of the great South Jersey Athletes who have played in games in the NFL:

Gallery Credit: Joshua Hennig/Townsquare Media

More From 97.3 ESPN