Joel Embiid has already missed 19 games this season and he’s currently dealing with a sore right shoulder.
More than once Monday in Philadelphia’s 121-90 win over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, Embiid could be seen clutching the top of his right arm.
As the 76ers (40-21) prepare to host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, how do they balance the health of their MVP candidate?
The playoffs are obviously more important than the balance of the regular season, yet playoff seeding has vas value as well as the 76ers head into play Tuesday in second place in the Eastern Conference.
“I’ve learned long ago until someone tells me, one of the trainers, I’ve gotten out of that guessing game if you know what I mean,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s our trainers and our medical people’s job to tell me, ‘Hey, get him out or he shouldn’t play.'”
Embiid scored 21 points in the blowout win against the rebuilding Thunder, who lost their 14th in a row. The Embiid health challenge, even against the short-handed Hawks, will be much more daunting as every team battles for playoff position.
“I literally don’t get involved in it,” Rivers said. “I think it’s a bad place for coaches to be because we would tell them to go play all the time. I think it’s a lot smarter to allow people with far better knowledge than me to tell me, ‘He’s good, he can play, keep going.’ It’s made it easier for me as well.”
The Sixers received a major boost from Ben Simmons, who returned from a four-game absence with an illness to score 12 points. More importantly, he looked fresh.
“He’s been big for us all year,” teammate Tobias Harris said of Simmons. “The games that he was out, we missed that dynamic piece out there.”
The Hawks (34-28) will look to rebound after a disappointing 100-86 loss on the road against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
The Hawks made only 4-of-27 shots (14.8 percent) from 3-point range en route to their lowest points total all season.
“They started with pressure and continued with that pressure for 48 minutes,” Atlanta head coach Nate McMillan said. “I don’t think it was our players’ letdown. … I thought Detroit just played aggressive, physical basketball on the defensive end of the floor.”
To be fair, the Hawks played with a depleted roster.
Trae Young (left ankle), Cam Reddish (right Achilles), Tony Snell (right ankle), Lou Williams (illness) and De’Andre Hunter (right knee) all sat out. It’s not immediately known if any one of them will be available to face the Sixers.
“It has been that type of year, where you’re just holding your breath every time someone hits the floor,” McMillan said.
The Hawks can take solace in the fact that Clint Capela continues to play at a very high level. Capela swept 15 rebounds to extend his double figure rebounding streak to 14 in a row, the longest active mark in the league.
And the Hawks also received a lift from Kris Dunn, who didn’t score in 13 minutes but competed in his first game all season in the aftermath of surgery on his right ankle.
“A lot of emotions — I was nervous, anxious, excited,” Dunn said. “It felt good to be back out there.”
–Field Level Media