Embiid on rest: I'm focusing on long-term health

PHILADELPHIA -- Joel Embiid said the reason behind his decision to sit out the past several games with left knee soreness -- including Saturday night's nationally televised showdown with the Golden State Warriors -- is that he's focusing on his long-term health.

"It's all about long-term preservation and making sure I'm ready not just for the playoffs, but also for the next 15 years," Embiid said before Saturday night's game at Wells Fargo Center. "Knowing the team, what we've been through, and knowing me and I like to push everything, I like to play through anything. We just felt like it was better to preserve.

"I didn't feel good, but it's getting better."

Initially reticent to give a specific time frame for his return, Embiid eventually relented and said -- after saying he'd be back "soon" several times -- that he plans to return sometime next week.

He also said multiple times that if he had to, he could play now, but that there's little need to push things given Philadelphia's comfortable positioning in the middle of the East standings.

Embiid had been playing through both back and knee soreness leading up to the All-Star Break and was a starter in this year's All-Star Game in Charlotte. But after feeling some discomfort in his left knee, Embiid underwent an MRI, which came back clean.

"Game by game, I felt like it was getting worse," Embiid said. "I felt like me, personally, I didn't feel comfortable. Coming from me you know that if I don't want to push through anything, I really need [the rest].

"But I'm glad it was nothing, and the MRIs showed nothing, so it was good."

Still, the decision was made to give him some rest to allow the tendinitis in his knee to dissipate and get him into the best place possible physically before Philadelphia reaches the playoffs.

And while he has fought such resting situations in the past, Embiid added he has begun to learn to trust what he's told when it comes to rest during the year.

"Right now it's all about preserving, all about the playoffs," he said. "I've said it in the past, but I've matured a lot. I've learned not to fight on stupid stuff. If the team wants me to rest, I'll listen, and if I feel good, I'll play. But if I need some rest, at the end of the day, it's all about being healthy. I understand it.

"They've got my back, and I've got theirs ... if I felt like my teammates needed me, the coaches needed me really bad, I would feel compelled to play. But right now, with the knee and with the guys we've added, it's also good to learn how to play without me; I actually think it benefits us, and I am excited to come back and fit in."

Embiid was asked why he played in the All-Star Game. He insisted he felt good enough to play in Charlotte.

"It wasn't bothering me," he said. "I just felt like every game, going into every game, I was good. All-Star Game, I was good. It had nothing to do with playing in the All-Star Game. Nothing was bothering me. But after that, I just felt like with us being in a great position to make the playoffs, and at the end of the day, it's about making sure I'm good for the rest of my career and these playoffs.

"We just felt like it was best to make sure I was good."

In addition to giving an update on his health, Embiid also used his pregame news conference as an opportunity to trade compliments with Kevin Durant. Saturday morning, Durant said after Golden State's shootaround that Embiid is the best center in the NBA.

"Joel Embiid is by far the toughest center to stop in the league," Durant said. "You can get a bucket anytime or just get a good shot anytime you throw it to him."

Embiid, after thanking Durant (through the reporter who apprised him of the remark), then said Durant is the best player in the game today.

"We beat them in the first game [last month in Oakland], so I was excited to play in that game, which I did," Embiid said with a smile. "It's always great to play against guys like him. At this point, he's probably the best player in the league, to me. It's always great to measure yourself against the best, and those guys are the champs and you want to go against them. It was great to get a win earlier in the season, although they didn't have Klay [Thompson], but since then, we've gotten better.

"I'm bummed to miss this game, but I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities. We've got a couple of good teams in our conference like Toronto, Milwaukee or Boston where we can really measure ourselves and see where we are."