Health updates on Joel Embiid, Robert Covington

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Health updates on Joel Embiid, Robert Covington

PORTLAND, Ore. — Joel Embiid will not play Saturday against the Nuggets in Denver and is expected to suit up Sunday to take on the Suns in Phoenix.

He is not cleared to play in back-to-back games because of his medical restriction. The Sixers are 1-7 this season without him.

"The ability to give him more rest," Brett Brown said Friday of the decision. "It's related to his health."

Embiid played 35 minutes in Thursday's loss to the Trail Blazers. He will have two days between games instead of just one. Embiid will not join the team in Denver, instead traveling from Portland to Phoenix to put less strain on his body. Embiid has been dealing with back tightness.

"We intend on trying to not move him around," Brown said. "We don't see it being smart. To just get him to one spot, to send a coach with him and continue to get his skill and his sweat, we feel is the smartest thing, again, tied into health."

The Sixers will wait until Saturday to determine Robert Covington's availability. The starting small forward injured his left middle finger and left Thursday's game. X-rays were negative. He did light shooting Friday, a maintenance day for the Sixers, and will receive treatment the following day.

Justin Anderson, who was cleared to return from shin splints on Thursday, is doubtful for Saturday because of the injury. Markelle Fultz went through his usual individualized work as part of his rehab (right shoulder).

The Sixers will be facing a big (literally) challenge without Embiid in Denver. The Nuggets (19-16) have been one of the surprising team in the West. They are being led by 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

This is a matchup where the Sixers will need to be physical at the basket.

They will have Embiid back to try to avenge their home loss to the Suns (13-23) earlier this season. The Sixers entered that game 13-9 and have lost 10 of 12 since. The Suns have won four of their last six.

Embiid had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 34 minutes in the Dec. 4 game.

Sixers Injury Update: At least 3 more weeks before Markelle Fultz is cleared

NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Injury Update: At least 3 more weeks before Markelle Fultz is cleared

Updated at 7 p.m. 

CLEVELAND — It will be at least three more weeks until Markelle Fultz is cleared to play.

Fultz has been sidelined since late October because of right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance. The Sixers announced Saturday both issues are resolved.

So what are the next steps? The 2017 No. 1 pick will continue physical therapy on his right shoulder. He also will increase his strength and conditioning training as well as on-court basketball activities.

Then in approximately three weeks, the Sixers medical team and Dr. Ben Kibler will examine Fultz and “gauge his readiness.” Fultz has been rehabbing with Kibler, the Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, including a recent trip to Kentucky.

There are various stages of criteria players have to go through before they are given the green light for NBA action. This could include, as examples, 5-on-0, 3-on-3, and finally 5-on-5 full-contact practice.

The Sixers also announced Justin Anderson, who has missed the last eight games because of shin splints in his left leg, will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks. Anderson will increase basketball training and conditioning. He has been limited in what he has been able to do on the court, following a program with physical therapy and rest.

The team is eyeing the returns of these two players as the roster has been hit with injuries. T.J. McConnell will be back on the sidelines Saturday against the Cavaliers because the sprained AC joint in his left shoulder still is an issue. McConnell suffered the injury last week, missed three games, played 18 minutes against the Lakers Thursday, but will not be able to go in Cleveland.

Dario Saric is available to play. Saric was listed as questionable, but the Sixers decided he would be able to play shortly before 7 p.m. The forward is dealing with a left eye laceration and right eye corneal abrasion he suffered in practice this week.

With Joel Embiid out because of his back-to-back restriction, Brown could turn to Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson in the starting lineup if Saric cannot play.

The Sixers do have their newest member, Trevor Booker, available. The forward joined the team in Philadelphia Friday and traveled to Cleveland for his first game with the Sixers. 

Jahlil Okafor to start vs. Trail Blazers after missing Sixers' last 2 games

Jahlil Okafor to start vs. Trail Blazers after missing Sixers' last 2 games

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jahlil Okafor will return to action on Thursday against the Trail Blazers (see game notes) after sitting out the last two games because of right knee soreness.

Brett Brown plans to start Okafor along with T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

"[I'm looking forward to] just playing with my teammates, going out there and competing," Okafor said after shootaround, also noting, "I feel fine."

Okafor has missed five games this season with right knee soreness. Last year he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a slight tear in his right meniscus. Okafor said he has not considered sitting out the remainder of this season to rest because of the soreness.

"No," he said. "We just rest and do treatment when we think it's necessary. We just go from there."

Okafor has been receiving treatment that includes icing, compression to prevent swelling and quad strengthening. 

While the Sixers have not placed a minute restriction on Okafor, they will use their judgment in-game on how long he can stay on the court. Brown expects to play him in five-minute periods.

"I think we all should expect there will be a fatigue factor that creeps in quicker than most of our guys that will be starting," Brown said. "I have to be mindful of short, sharp durations as far as minute segments. I think five minutes is sort of the number that's most on my mind as far as when his effectiveness starts to go backwards."

Okafor's approach in his return is to get into a rhythm from his teammates and not force the game. 

"I think inevitably there's always a little bit of a feel and the pace of NBA athletes that catches people off guard at the start of the game," Brown said. "I think it'll come back to him quickly."

Brown opted to start Stauskas at shooting guard instead of Gerald Henderson to add a defensive presence to the second unit. Brown also wants to preserve Henderson's minutes for late-game situations.

Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless and Tiago Splitter (all inactive) traveled with the Sixers to Portland. The Sixers said on Wednesday that Joel Embiid is slated to join them in Los Angeles, where they play back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday against the Clippers and Lakers.