Ever since his arrival in Philadelphia, Joel Embiid would be recognized as an injury-prone player. On the night he got drafted in 2014, Embiid was sitting at home with a cast on his foot as he was coming off of surgery, which caused his drop to the No. Three overall pick on draft night. He missed his rookie season as expected, and wouldn't play until the following year. Embiid had his debut in 2016, but he would only appear in 31 games after suffering a knee injury. The Sixers missed the playoffs that season.

The 2017-2018 year was poised to be a big one for Embiid as he was healthy for the first time in his career. He started the year off strong and ended up playing in 63 out of 82 games. Unfortunately, his healthy season came crashing down late in the year as he suffered a facial injury, which would force the Sixers' big man to wear a mask throughout the 2018 playoff run. The Sixers were then sent packing after the second round.

Although Embiid missed some time in 2018, being healthy for more than half the year was promising after seeing all of the time he lost in previous season's. Once again, Embiid would start 2019 off strong. He was staying healthy and playing at an MVP caliber level. But midway through the year, he started dealing with some issues in his knee that wouldn't come up on an MRI.

As Embiid dealt with knee pain during the All-Star break, he wouldn't return to the court until weeks after second-half of the season tipped off. And when he did, his return wouldn't last very long. Embiid ended up only playing in eight games throughout the back end of the Sixers' schedule, marking 64 total games on the year. He had a diagnosis of knee tendinitis, but the team mostly labeled his absence as 'load management.'

By the time playoffs rolled around, Embiid was expected to be good to go. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. As he was listed as 'doubtful' for Game one, it became clear that Embiid's knee issues aren't going away anytime soon. Although he ended up playing against the Brooklyn Nets in the ugly loss, it's not exactly clear how long Embiid is going to last. Some more rest could help him, but apparently these knee concerns won't be going away anytime soon. In fact, this could be a long-term issue.

According to former NFL team doctor, and Sports Medical Analyst David Chao, Embiid's sporting of a knee brace for his tendinitis raises a big red flag. As Chao discussed in his piece with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Embiid and the Sixers could be looking towards a long-road of issues, which really can't be solved through knee braces, and rehab.

I am sure Embiid is tough and can play through his current knee issue, but the worry goes beyond the playoffs this year. The picture above indicates concern about a long-term issue. The brace shown is used for unicompartmental arthritis. It could be used for a bone bruise, but absent an acute injury that is unlikely. And given Embiid’s long-term value, I doubt the Sixers medical staff would allow him to play through a bone bruise to risk further damage.Therefore the brace almost certainly means Embiid’s longevity is in question. Assuming the brace means he has some sort of arthritis, there is no complete cure. There can only be management of the issue.

Embiid's longevity has been in question ever since he suffered his first season-ending knee injury, following his season-ending foot injury. At this point, it's become clear that expecting 82 games out of Embiid would be far-fetched. However, given that over time his injuries have slowed him down during the second half of the year when the Sixers reach the postseason, his long-term health has definitely begun to raise some eyebrows.

Expecting Embiid to flip the switch and feel better this year in the playoffs would be wishful thinking. He's gotten time off recently, and the pain, at times, has flared up and felt even worse than before for him. These concerns aren't going to be going away anytime soon. He has no other options but to fight through the pain in the playoffs, and hope that eventually, the pain eases up during the offseason. If not, we could be looking at a situation where Embiid's knee concerns drag over into the next season and beyond.

Follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_


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