76ers

After nasty, painful injury vs. Thunder, Joel Embiid 'basically playing with one hand'

After nasty, painful injury vs. Thunder, Joel Embiid 'basically playing with one hand'

Joel Embiid went to the locker room after his first stint of the game Monday night.

A collective sigh of relief could be felt when he returned to the game a few minutes later, appearing no worse for the wear.

Then, a couple possessions later, the ring finger on Embiid’s left finger was noticeably not where it should be after jostling with Steven Adams for a rebound. You could hear the crowd audibly gasp as head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson ran out to cover Embiid’s hand with a towel.

It was gruesome.

“I nearly threw up when I saw that, but I'm glad he came back out,” Ben Simmons said. “We needed him. He's a big part of this team. We were glad to have him back out there.”

The Sixers' All-Star center gutted it out and helped his team snap a four-game losing streak with a 120-113 win over the Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center Monday night (see observations).

As Embiid was heading toward the sideline, you could see Simmons, Josh Richardson and Mike Scott react with concern — and disgust.

“It looked crazy,” Richardson said. “I commend him, first of all, for coming back — it’s not easy coming back from what happened. He said it was bothering him. It takes a lot of toughness to come back and play through it.”

Embiid was officially diagnosed with a dislocated finger. He had X-rays taken on the hand when he initially went to the locker room early in the game, but the results were negative. The finger was snapped back into place and taped, allowing Embiid to come back for the start of the second quarter.

Make no mistake: Embiid was in pain. Just simply snapping a dislocated finger back into place doesn’t heal it. It affected Embiid throughout the rest of the game, but he felt a responsibility to help his team in any way he could.

“It was pretty bad. I was basically playing with one hand,” Embiid said. “It’s pretty bad, but in the midst of the losing streak I just wanted to make sure that I do everything possible to try to get us a win, and I’m glad we got the win.”

Embiid said that the injury mostly affected him on the offensive end and his ability to rebound. Though he didn’t have his most efficient night from the field (7 of 17), Embiid managed to pull down nine rebounds.

Since he was having issues using his left hand and it was affecting his ability to score, Embiid became a more of a playmaker. He recorded a season-high eight assists and turned the ball over just twice. His biggest assist came on a Tobias Harris corner three which put the Sixers up 115-106 with 55.4 seconds left to essentially seal the game.

Even when Embiid is hurting, he draws attention and he used that to his advantage Monday.

Yeah, my mindset basically after that, not being able to really do anything offensively besides basically holding the ball was to contribute in some other ways — setting screens and passing the ball. The situations I was in allowed me to be a playmaker and not a scorer, so I just rolled with that and I’m glad we got the win.

The word “maturity” has come up an awful lot this season when it comes to Embiid. The 25-year-old is looked to as a leader on this team — even to 33-year-old Al Horford. This was a moment where his leadership showed.

With his team in the midst of a losing streak, desperately looking for a win, Embiid did what he had to do.

“I thought he was done for the game,” Brett Brown said. “As far as, what does it mean going forward, I don't know that. But what I do know is that is a tough return to the court. That is a competitive statement, and I appreciate him. I respect that. We needed to play well here at home. We haven't been on the right side of the win/loss column lately and I respect his motives to come back.”

Embiid said he isn’t sure what the long-term ramifications of him playing will be, but he wasn’t worried about that.

"Consequences, you assume them later," he said. "But like you said, as the leader you want to go out and show your teammates that you want to win, and you’re going to do everything possible to do so.”

If the medical staff will let him, he’s going to play Thursday night against the rival Celtics.

“I want to play — it’s a big game,” Embiid said. “Last time we played them we had great success. But then again, whatever they want me to do — obviously I try to fight it — but I know they care about me, so whatever they want me to do, I guess. We’ll see.”

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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

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