MIAMI — Barring a setback in pregame warm-ups, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has been cleared to play in Thursday night’s Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, sources tell ESPN.
Embiid has been cleared both as having healed from an orbital fracture suffered last month, and for the style of protective mask he’ll wear, sources said.
Coach Brett Brown said that if Embiid plays, he’ll be in the starting lineup. The team upgraded his status to probable, from doubtful, late in the afternoon.
Sources says the injuries Embiid suffered when he collided with teammate Markelle Fultz on March 28 included a severe mid-face and orbital fracture that required a complex surgery. He also suffered a concussion.
Embiid has been approved by the league to wear a face mask made from a mix of carbon fiber and polycarbonate to protect his injury. The mask will have protective eyewear built into it.
Because the Sixers physicians, including Embiid’s surgeon, and the league’s independent medical consultants, including a craniofacial surgeon, determined that for his specific fracture he would be at increased risk for potential re-injury if he were to play in just a polycarbonate face mask.
This is the second time he has injured this area of his face. The first time was in college at Kansas.
The mask is dark in color but translucent.
The league approved this upgraded mask once it was satisfied it would protect Embiid while not affording him any competitive advantage
The Sixers were doing testing on this mask for the past 10 days to make sure it was ready once he was cleared.
Brown wouldn’t go so far as to say Embiid had been cleared late Thursday afternoon.
“It’s trending in a positive way. We like what we’ve seen over the past few days,” Brown said. “We liked what we saw at shootaround today.”
The final step will come during warm-ups.
“If the warm-up and the continued collaborative discussion that we’re having together moves in a direction that it’s been moving, we hope that he plays tonight,” Brown said.
Embiid has missed the first two games of the Heat-Sixers series, which is tied 1-1.
He cleared the NBA’s concussion protocol earlier this week and practiced with the team Tuesday and Wednesday. Embiid also participated in shootaround Thursday morning but had yet to be cleared for full contact, Brown said.
ESPN’s Ian Begley contributed to this report.