Rest worked once for Joel Embiid. Kansas coach Bill Self is hopeful it will again.
Self said Monday that Embiid, the Jayhawks’ 7-foot freshman center, will sit out KU’s final two regular-season games after aggravating a lower-back strain Saturday in a loss at Oklahoma State.
KU plays host to Texas Tech on Wednesday before concluding the regular season at West Virginia on Saturday.
“Joel re-aggravated a spot in his lower back that he was dealing with a few weeks ago,” Self said. “We had another MRI performed. We’ve also spoken with experts with this particular injury and have been told the same thing we were told before: Rest is the best remedy.”
Self said KU will re-evaluate Embiid on Sunday, and he could return next week for the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center.
“If the discomfort ceases, he should be able to practice on Monday (March 10) and participate in the Big 12 championship,” Self said. “If he’s still having symptoms of tightness and soreness, then we will look at sitting him longer through the postseason conference tournament, but there is no reason why he should not be feeling much better by the NCAA Tournament.
“The doctors feel that amount of time off should do him wonders for how he is feeling.”
For KU, which has already clinched a 10th straight regular-season Big 12 title, there probably isn’t a more concerning issue than Embiid’s health in March.
The season has taken a physical toll on Embiid, who is playing just his third year of organized basketball.
He initially tweaked his back in a victory over West Virginia on Feb. 8, just a few weeks after suffering a knee sprain at TCU. After a road loss at K-State on Feb. 10, Self rested Embiid for five days. He missed a home game against TCU during the stretch before returning with 18 points and eight rebounds in a victory at Texas Tech on Feb. 18.
During Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State, Embiid appeared to wrench his back while falling to the ground on a drive to the basket. He exited the game and stretched out his back on the sideline before returning to the court. But in the moments after the game, Embiid was in noticeable pain as he was helped to the team bus.
The goal is to ensure that Embiid is healthy for the NCAA Tournament.
Still, the injury raises another question: Has Embiid, a potential NBA lottery pick, played his last game at Allen Fieldhouse? He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in KU’s 85-54 victory over Texas on Feb. 22.
If Embiid returns for the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney on March 13, he will get 11 full days off without game action. For now, Self and KU will be patient.
“It should not be an injury that keeps him out for the rest of the season,” Self said. “Last time he was off five days, and … he was able to come back and be 100 percent.”Tharpe ‘OK’
Self said junior guard Naadir Tharpe should be “OK” for Wednesday’s game against Texas Tech after dislocating his left thumb in the second half against Oklahoma State. Tharpe had the thumb popped back into place and returned to the game for the final minutes.