Sixers center Joel Embiid is averaging a league-best 30.0 points per game.

Joel Embiid knows what has been said about him:

“The 76ers center is a great player … but he can’t stay healthy.”

“The four-time All-Star is a matchup nightmare … but he doesn’t play a full season.”

“Embiid is the most dominant big man…but he’s out of shape.”

The 28-year-old is proving his critics wrong with 13 games left in the regular season.

Embiid has been more durable this season and has played through nagging injuries. His 12 missed games this season are misleading as only one was the result of injury.

He was a late scrape in the Sixers’ Dec. 13 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies with rib pain. Embiid missed two more games on the scheduled rest days and had to sit out nine games with COVID-19.

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But Embiid, who has played the past two games with a backache, could use a break. The Sixers will complete a grueling stretch of six games in eight days with a key back-to-back. They will entertain the Toronto Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. They will then host the Miami Heat on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The Sixers then embark on a three-game road trip on the West Coast with games at the Los Angeles Lakers (Wednesday), Clippers (Friday) and Phoenix Suns (March 27).

Embiid will be listening to the advice of the medical team regarding its future availability. But there’s a part of him that wants to play in the remaining 13 games to get the monkey off his back by further debunking what his critics have been saying.

“I’m competitive. I won’t lie,” Embiid said. “I see everything. That’s always been the killer thing about me, although that was really my first three years. Everything that’s happened since then, I’m healthy. I’ve never been absent from anything for more than two weeks. That’s the narrative.

“But on the other hand, I’m competitive. I like a challenge. That’s something I think about a lot. And I like proving people wrong. So that goes into my thought process a lot.

However, the Sixers (42-26) are third in the Eastern Conference, three games behind first-place finisher Heat (47-24).

A healthy Embiid competing at the elite level is the Sixers’ only chance of winning an NBA title. Anyone who’s been watching the team play lately will note that even with the addition of James Harden, the Sixers are losing a lot if Embiid isn’t on the court.

And that’s not surprising.

Embiid is first in the league in scoring (30.0 points per game), eighth in rebounding (11.3) and tenth in block (1.4). He also averages a career-best 4.4 assists.

“The ultimate goal is to win a championship,” Embiid said, “and be ready for the playoffs and do my best. So that overrides everything.

“Those last few games, whatever’s best for me to go 100 per cent into the playoffs, that’s what I’m going to do.”

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But Embiid has had bad luck staying on the pitch in the past.

He missed last season’s All-Star game and a win over the Chicago Bulls on March 11, 2021 due to COVID-19 contact tracing before suffering a game-ending bruised left knee bone on March 12, 2021 against the Washington Wizards. This injury sidelined him for 10 games.

Embiid missed 21 of 72 games last season.

He then hyperextended his right knee in Game 4 of the Sixers’ first round playoff series against the Wizards. He sat out the last three quarters of that loss. An MRI showed Embiid had a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. As a result, he was sidelined in the Sixers’ Game 5 series and won the win over the Wizards.

The knee appeared to handicap him at times during the Sixers’ second-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

This all comes after he sat out his first two seasons for two foot surgeries; had end-of-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee during the 2016–17 season; and missed time at the end of the 2017–18 regular season due to an orbital fracture near his left eye.

In 2018-19 he missed time with tendinitis in his left knee. And in 2019-20 he was out after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger, a sprained left shoulder and other ailments.

The orbital fracture also ruled him out of Games 1 and 2 of the Sixers’ playoff series in the opening round with the Miami Heat. In the 2019 postseason, he was below 100% due to tendinitis. And the following season, he twisted his left ankle with four games remaining in the regular season.

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So he has a history of getting beat up en route to the playoffs.

But this season things were different.

“He just goes through everything,” said coach Doc Rivers of Embiid, who is struggling with his current back pain. “I come back to the same thing. He’s in great shape. Conditioning allows you to play through injuries, allows you to play through pain, and he does.

“He wants to play. He really didn’t want to play the games he was playing [do it]. He had been told he had to. It was good. He was great.”

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