NBA Rumors: Philadelphia 76ers Nick Nurse offers encouraging update on Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse seems to believe that Joel Embiid is coming back this season.
Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

Based on Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse's comments, there's real confidence that Joel Embiid is going to return before the end of the season.

At one point this season, it seemed as if the Philadelphia 76ers were going to emerge as the biggest threat to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. However, a Joel Embiid injury in late January has seemingly put the brakes pretty strongly on that narrative. Since his injury at the end of January, the Sixers have dropped 13 of 21 games played.

They went from being one game out of the second seed all the way down to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference standings. To say it's been a rough last month and a half for the Sixers would be a massive understatement. However, there's one variable that could turn things around - the possible return of Joel Embiid.

Over the last week or so, there have been competing reports on Embiid's possible return. First, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported that Embiid isn't anywhere near close to returning for the Sixers. Then, there was another report that stated Embiid is still "on track" to return during the first week or two of April, before the start of the NBA Playoffs.

Now a Sixers official has gone on the record to offer some much-needed clarity. In the words of Sixers head coach Nick Nurse, he's "pretty confident" that Embiid will be able to return before the end of the season.

Quite frankly, these are the types of comments that should trump everything that has been reported recently. If the team is happy with Embiid's progress and Nurse is confident that he will be back this season, that's all we need to know.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to avoid the 8th seed

If the Sixers are truly operating under the assumption that it's a foregone conclusion that Embiid is going to return before the end of the season and certainly in time for the team's playoff run, then there should be one clear goal between now and the end of the regular season. That should be to find a way to avoid the eighth seed.

Even though there was a point this season when it appeared as if the Sixers could be a real threat to the Celtics, I'm not sure that's a matchup they would want to see early on. Finding a way to finish as the sixth or seventh seed would give the Sixers a much better shot of making a deep playoff run.

And that could be the case with or without Embiid back in the lineup.

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