Embiid met with a hand specialist before Thursday night's 109-98 Sixers victory against the Boston Celtics at Wells Fargo Center, where the determination for him to have surgery was made.
He will be reevaluated in one to two weeks.
"He's competitive," Sixers coach Brett Brown said pregame, when asked how Embiid's mood was in the wake of the injury. "He's competitive.
"He would be as you'd expect him to be."
Embiid's status had been in limbo since he suffered a gruesome dislocation of that finger late in the first quarter of Philadelphia's 120-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder here Monday. While Embiid was able to return to that game quickly, playing 33 minutes and finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, he spent time afterward being evaluated by doctors and said in his postgame news conference that he had torn a ligament.
"They're figuring out what's next," Embiid said of the doctors Monday night.
They decided surgery would be the next step for the superstar center. Now the focus will shift to how long he will be out. Embiid, 25, didn't practice either Tuesday or Wednesday, as he spent those days meeting with specialists about his finger, and the team said he will continue to consult with doctors to determine what the next steps will be.
The Sixers will have to adjust to life without their All-NBA center. That is, unfortunately for them, something they've had to do time and again over the course of his NBA career. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Embiid has played in 189 of the 448 regular-season games the Sixers have had during his five-plus years in the NBA entering Thursday.
But that doesn't make dealing with the absence of one of the league's best players any easier.
"Everybody sitting in front of me would understand what do you miss on defense in what you used to have in a 7-foot-2 All-NBA defender, and now you don't," Brown said. "Then you get into offense and you've got an all-league player that's sort of your focal point to your offense, you don't have him, what does that mean? Pace of game, focal points, call of plays, so where do I begin? It's massive. I think if you looked at sort of the results we've had without Joel, we have lots of room to grow."
Embiid's absence shines a spotlight on Al Horford -- the man the Sixers targeted in free agency last summer for just these types of situations. Not only was Horford outstanding defensively against Embiid the previous three seasons (and by signing him, Philadelphia removed him from the roster of the rival Celtics), but Horford's presence also allowed Philadelphia to erase its biggest weakness last season: how the 76ers played when Embiid was on the bench.
The Sixers were outscored by 153 points last season when Embiid was not on the court; they outscored teams by 373 when he played. This season, the success with Embiid on the court is still there, as Philadelphia is outscoring opponents by 113 points when he plays.
But when he sits? The Sixers are still a plus-24 for the season, which is a credit to having Horford manning the pivot the vast majority of the time Embiid has sat. Against the Celtics on Thursday, Horford was 7-for-11 from the field for 17 points, adding eight rebounds (five offensive) and six assists in 32 minutes. He was a game-high plus-19.
"Really, it's just the fact that as defenders out on the perimeter, we get spoiled a little bit because we know that if anything we can send it to Joel and teams are going to struggle, and when he's not around we have to be on edge, and it's like don't get beat off the dribble, you've got to be there and we don't have that rim protector like Joel is," Horford said postgame when asked what Philly would change defensively with Embiid out. "We have to get creative, and that's what we did tonight and we found a way."
Brown said before the game that he would be "putting a blowtorch ... into what we used to do."
"It doesn't fit, so shame on me to make it fit," he said. "We don't have Joel Embiid. ... It doesn't mean we have to completely pivot out to wild stuff that could be reckless. I don't think so. I think it's just taking sort of the house we've lived in and moving the furniture around a little bit. And that's what I intend to do."
After the game, Brown said he was pleased with the contributions of not only Horford, but also Norvel Pelle, who had six points and two blocks in 12 minutes, and Ben Simmons, who got some time at center in the second quarter.
He also said the Sixers had Embiid on FaceTime in the locker room after the victory.
"We did our postgame bell-ringing ceremony," Brown said, "and I could see over one of the player's shoulders [Sixers general manager Elton Brand] holding [up] Joel on FaceTime. We were able from New York to get him included, which is always a good thing, but when you are missing Joel, you better have some people do what Norvel did and Ben in his limited minutes and Horford, and it's true -- it was a next man up. We had to find something to take that massive void that Joel left."
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