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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

MIAMI — Brooklyn's Jeremy Lin was horrified to see what happened to Gordon Hayward, whose season almost certainly ended in a most disturbing fashion five minutes into the Celtics' season-opener.

A night later, Lin met a similar fate.

Here's some of what should be celebrated from the opening nights of the NBA season: Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had a 37-point game, Cleveland's LeBron James was one assist away from a triple-double, Houston beat Golden State on the Warriors' ring night and Miami's Hassan Whiteside went for 26 points and 22 rebounds.

It all seems overshadowed by injuries.

No, this is not the start the NBA wanted.

"It's tough watching that happen to anybody in the NBA," said Golden State guard Shaun Livingston, whose horrific knee injury from 2007 -- so bad that doctors originally thought he could lose his leg -- was compared to the grotesque nature of Hayward's injury Tuesday night. "It's all a brotherhood. You want to see guys succeed."

Many members of the brotherhood are ailing, none causing bigger shock waves than Hayward.

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard hasn't played yet this season because of a quadriceps injury. The Warriors sent Draymond Green to get an MRI on an aching knee, which had knocked him out early in their season opener. Houston's Chris Paul missed a game at Sacramento on Wednesday with knee pain. Cleveland's Isaiah Thomas won't be back until January, at least, while recovering from a hip injury.

And those guys, along with Hayward, are just the hurting All-Stars from last season.

"There's no doubt we'll get him back to be better than he was before," said Mark Bartelstein, Hayward's agent.

Lin's injury was nowhere near as visibly horrifying as Hayward's, but the end result was the same -- a bad landing at Indiana on Wednesday left him in tears and saying, "I'm done, I'm done."

His personal diagnosis was officially confirmed Thursday morning: Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee, the Nets said.

"We feel awful that the injury will cost him the season," Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

Plenty of other teams are missing key players and would-be starters.

Among them: Utah's Dante Exum may miss the whole season with a dislocated left shoulder, Miami's Rodney McGruder had surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, Phoenix's Brandon Knight blew his knee out in the summer, San Antonio's Tony Parker (leg) is still several weeks from returning, Indiana's Glenn Robinson III (ankle) may miss half the season and Milwaukee's Jabari Parker (knee) has months of rehab work left.

"You worry about guys getting nicked up," Memphis forward Brandan Wright said. "Lot of big injuries ... You want to just take care of your guys."

Hayward had surgery Wednesday night and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, after breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle in Boston's opener at Cleveland.

Livingston had no interest in seeing the replay of Hayward's injury. He knows the road that awaits the Boston star.

"I'm not watching the video, but I've seen the pictures," Livingston said. "Prayers go out to him. It's going to be a long road back for him but if he puts his mind to it, is a man of faith, keeps good people around him ... it's going to be a long rehab for him but he's very capable of coming back and being the same player."

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers

If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?

Not this season.

The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game. 

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

The Sixers were in Wednesday's game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (see studs, duds, more).

The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night. 

At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season. 

The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players. 

“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said (more on him here). “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”

The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back-to-back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete. 

“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday (see story)

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss on Wednesday night (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers (see highlights).

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”