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The Award Race is being affected by the NBA New Rules

    We know that just two weeks ago, Joel Embiid returned from a four-game absence caused by a sore ankle, an injury that kept him out of the Philadelphia 76ers’ marquee Christmas Day matchup with the Miami Heat.

    Then right after that Jan. 2 win against the Chicago Bulls, during which Embiid recorded a 31-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, the NBA’s reigning MVP was asked about the new league policy that could end his repeat run before a single award vote is cast.

    Now the league’s rule, put in place in early October as part of the push to curb load management, states players will be all but certain to be ineligible for major individual awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA honors among them — if they fail to play in at least 65 games.

    Also, “I just wanna play as many games as possible,” Embiid, the reigning MVP and front-runner for this season’s award, said after Philadelphia’s win against Chicago. “It’s unfortunate that I missed the last four games, but you can’t control it.

    “At the beginning of the season … my goal was to try to play 82 games.”

    then the three days later, Embiid tweaked his left knee in Philadelphia’s loss to the New York Knicks. He missed the next three games before stepping back on the court Monday with another dominating performance in a win against the Houston Rockets.

    We know Embiid and the Sixers host the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic, his chief rival for MVP in each of the past three seasons, on Tuesday.

    After sitting out those seven games, Embiid has missed 10 this season and can miss only seven of the 76ers’ remaining 44 contests to stay eligible.

    And as the season approaches its midway point, Philly’s big man isn’t the only superstar who could be impacted for postseason honors and the millions in financial incentives that follow.

    Fact is that THE 65-GAME RULE accounts for just under 80% of the 82-game regular season. Along with the in-season tournament and the larger player participation policy, it was designed to put more emphasis on the regular season and to encourage teams to play their elite players more often.

    However, “There’s no magic to the 65, but we’re trying to take into account games, of course, that are going to be missed because there are injuries, and maybe occasionally even it’s necessary for a player to rest,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at his NBA Finals news conference in Denver last spring. “This is something we negotiated with the players’ association. Everybody has an interest in the league putting its best foot forward in a highly competitive regular season.”

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