No Joel Embiid? No Robert Covington? No T.J. McConnell? No problem last night for the Philadelphia 76ers. Well, maybe one problem, and that's that they didn't have enough healthy good players to compete with an essentially full-strength New Orleans Pelicans squad for 48 minutes, losing 131-124 (JRUUUUUUEEEEE). That was kind of a problem.
We all knew we'd get here at some point this season -- the stretch of games where various key Sixers are suffering from various prohibitive maladies, as Brett Brown is forced to juggle his starting lineup and overall rotation every night and we're waiting with baited breath before each tip-off to see who'll be showing up. It's pretty much unavoidable for most teams, and all but guaranteed for the post-Process Sixers. It's just a question of when it comes and how long it lasts.
Over the weekend, I made the rookie mistake of mentioning how despite the Sixers suffering two embarrassing home defeats, making a trade I find personally insulting and giving us another "Oh yeah, Markelle's doing great -- you can't see it, and you won't for another three weeks, but just trust us, he's all good" Fultz update, everything still was OK because Embiid was still healthy and as long as he's healthy who even cares about whether the sun rises or not? Wouldn't you know it, the next day he's a gametime scratch with back soreness. He says he could've played if it was the finals (though not the other playoff rounds, I guess?) and expects to play in Minnesota on Tuesday, but a one-game flare-up has not traditionally lasted just one game for JoJo, so we'll see about that one tomorrow.
Maybe it's some kind of back virus that Robert Covington caught diving into the stands in Cleveland on Saturday. Scans were negative on Cov after the game, but according to Derek Bodner, he's still considered doubtful for Tuesday's game in Minnesota. And while T.J. McConnell hoped to be back as early as Thursday's game against the Lakers, his lingering absence with a shoulder injury is definitely becoming something of a concern for the Sixers, especially with Stauskas gone, Fultz still out, and Jerryd Bayless showing Mariah Carey-like target accuracy on his jumper the last couple games.
In the meantime, the Sixers have dropped four in a row and fell to .500 in the standings -- out of the playoff picture in the East, even. This is hardly tragic, especially since the Sixers have had one of the hardest schedules in the league so far, and should have plenty of time to make ground back up in the top-heavy East once they get healthy and come together. But as we all know from experience, that last part is easier said than done, and once injury season really hits, it gets to be a lot of one step forward, two sprained ankles backward. Pray we don't get to Christmas and have to trot out a Bayless-Redick-TLC-Booker-Johnson lineup on national TV.