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Embiid: I’m going to be a nightmare for (Heat)

MIAMI — Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid started Game 3 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Embiid has been sidelined since March 28, when he suffered an orbital fracture and a concussion while colliding with teammate Markelle Fultz during a game.

The team upgraded his status to probable, from doubtful, late in the afternoon.

Sources say the facial injuries Embiid suffered included a severe mid-face and orbital fracture that required a complex surgery.

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.

Why?

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.

Earlier Thursday, coach Brett Brown wouldn’t go so far as to say Embiid had been cleared to return, saying it would depend on what he saw during pregame warm-ups.

“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.”

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.

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