Sixers' Joel Embiid plays with dark cloud over himself: 'Maybe it should be'

Joel Embiid has dealt with a few injuries and ailments throughout his NBA career.

A stress fracture in his back. A broken navicular bone in his right foot. A meniscus tear in his left knee. An orbital fracture in his left eye. Knee tendinitis. A meniscus tear in his right knee. Torn ligaments in his thumb, a concussion and an orbital fracture in his left eye. LCL in his right knee. A meniscus tear in his left knee (again).

Well, add another one to the list.

On Thursday night, it was revealed that Embiid has been suffering from Bell's rheumatism for the past week. Bell's palsy “A condition that causes sudden weakness in the muscles on one side of the face.” In case you haven't noticed, Embiid can't blink his left eye and his mouth occasionally tilts to that side.

Embiid did nothing to earn it. It was not caused by any action. It was unspeakably terrible luck.

“I say that every day,” Embiid said. “Every year, 'Why?' You start asking yourself questions like:

Nevertheless, he put on a masterclass on Thursday when his team needed it most. A bulky knee brace and facial muscle weakness can be fatal.

“Maybe it should,” Embiid said. “You have to take it as it is. But one thing I'm not going to do is give up. No matter what happens, you have to keep pressing and keep fighting. To put my body on the line for my family, for this city, for this team. I can't sit back and feel sorry for myself every time.

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Every postseason, Embiid feels like a dark cloud hangs over him, ready to drop his next set of gruesome injuries and odd ailments. That “take it as it is” attitude served him well in Game 3.

The Sixers are on the back foot Knicks Down 2-0 in their first-round series, Embiid had one of the best playoff performances of his career. He dropped a postseason career-high 50 points with eight rebounds and four assists in just over 40 minutes of action. The scary thing is that he doesn't look like his dominant self – or he doesn't feel like it.

Instead of the unfortunate attitude that Embiid has shown in years past, he's got a decent umbrella this time around. He doesn't exactly sing in the rain, but at least he can walk.

“Yeah, it goes through your mind and you ask yourself those questions,” Embiid said, “but what are you going to do about it? Are you going to quit or keep going? If you keep going, what are you going to do with it?

“The best thing you can do is do a better job of preparing yourself every day, and I did. Sometimes you get results, sometimes you don't. … It doesn't matter what happens — if I win, if I don't win — when I'm done, I'm I'm going to be proud of, and I know my people will be proud of me.

Embiid admitted to being depressed while recovering from his menstrual procedure. He didn't play for eight weeks and plenty of doubts crept into his mind. Many are saying he shouldn't play at all and should be given another shot next season.

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But that was never an option for Embiid. He likes to play. That's why he pushed so hard during rehab and continues to push Bell's palsy. Embiid said he experienced migraines leading up to the play-in win over the Miami Heat. He didn't think much of it until the side of his face began to feel weak, at which point he decided to check. He opined that the stress of it all may have caused the condition.

What should Embiid be most stressed about?

Oh, right — the weight of an entire city and franchise that hasn't reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 2001, his NBA legacy and basketball mortality are still heavy, dealing with an injury-prone label and criticism of his playoffs from all pundits.

In a word, Everything.

“I've only got eight more years, so I've got to enjoy it as much as I can,” Embiid said half-jokingly.

Embiid spoke to reporters in the media room, his eyes barely visible through the function-over-fashion sunglasses he wore, and he looked relaxed. Whether it was for the win, his performance or his Bell's palsy diagnosis, he seemed relaxed.

He certainly wasn't physical, and he often talks about the mental health this has taken a toll on him, but he had a dominant game and he looked like he was post-game.

“I have a pretty face, so I don't like my mouth looking the other way,” Embiid said. “Like I said, unfortunate situation, but everything happens for a reason.”

In what has always felt like the Sixers scored the most, Joel Embiid delivered the best performance of his playoff career, playing with shaved knees and half-face bowed.

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His excellent Troll work finally made it past the second round after a season like this one.

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