It looks like Joel Embiid’s back problems have only begun.
I mean who wouldn’t have a stress fracture from the weight of carrying the Jayhawks to their tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title? I can joke, but in reality losing the big man throughout the Big 12 tournament and probably the first round of the NCAA tournament is detrimental for the Jayhawks.
The likelihood that the Jayhawks will play Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament is pretty high and we saw what the Cowboys did when Embiid was hurting. K-State also took advantage of a struggling Joel and we witnessed what West Virginia did when he wasn’t even on the court. The Jayhawks are a different team without him and should be worried.
Without him there are easily four other teams that could walk out of the Sprint Center with the tournament trophy. If they don’t sweep the Big 12 tournament should they be a No. 1 seed? I don’t think they are worthy of No. 1 seed without that dominating post presence unless they can prove it. If the Jayhawks can take the Big 12 tournament title without Embiid, they deserve it. But we have yet to see that team.
Should he worry though? He’s a team player and he will. After all, he was the one talking about coming back to Kansas next year despite being a top NBA draft pick. What about Joel’s future? I think it’s easy to look at the situation from the outside and say he needs to return as soon as possible. But any further injury to his back and his draft stock could crash.
So what’s more important, Embiid’s future or the present Jayhawk program? He could heal and rehab more quickly than expected but is it worth risking his NBA career? Not in my opinion. Embiid needs to take his time returning hoping he’s still a hot commodity. Let his other young Jayhawks carry the load for a while. Hopefully they can get far enough on the wings of Andrew Wiggins to take them to Dallas. If they do should Joel play? I don’t think he will deny himself that pleasure but that’s a very BIG “IF”.