76ers

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid a full participant at practice, 'hopefully' able to return next week

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid a full participant at practice, 'hopefully' able to return next week

CAMDEN, N.J. — For the Sixers, seeing Joel Embiid fully participate in practice was a sight for sore eyes.

The team is coming off a rough loss in Toronto, lost another starter in Josh Richardson just four minutes into that contest and has a brutal nine-game slate before the All-Star break.

When Brett Brown was asked what changes with the All-Star center back at practice Friday, he was silent for a moment and then leaned in the reporter’s direction:

“A lot. I don’t mean to be smart, but say no more.”

This was the first time Embiid has fully participated in a practice since he tore the radial collateral ligament of the fourth metacarpal on his left hand back on Jan. 6. He had surgery in New York on Jan. 10 but has been seen before games running and getting shots up with his guide hand off the ball.

His return to practice comes on the heels of Embiid being named an All-Star starter for the third straight season. His participation in last year’s All-Star game became a hot button issue after he missed the following eight games with knee tendinitis.

While Embiid does think he’ll be ready for that game, that’s not what’s fueling his desire to get back on the court.

I'm doing the progress necessary,” Embiid said. “I feel great. My finger feels good. I'm not too concerned about what the All-Star game is gonna look like. Right now, we're sixth in the East so hopefully by next week I'm able to play.

A team spokesman said that Embiid would be re-evaluated Monday, leaving room for optimism that the team’s leading scorer could possibly play next week. 

In the times we’ve seen Embiid since his surgery, he’s sported some type of hard plastic splint. On Friday, it appeared to be more of a wrap as we saw him catching passes, dribbling with his left hand and using both hands to finish around the rim.

When he does return, Embiid said he will have to play with some sort of support on the finger. As he’s ramped up his activity, it seems like the focus now is on getting him game ready.

“I'm still getting used to it,” Embiid said. “From time to time during a game you get slapped on the hand so just going through practice and go through those scenarios and seeing how it goes, and then also getting back into it. I had a little bit of time off where I couldn't do anything with the surgery so I was a little bit winded. Just gotta get my conditioning back.”

And the other sticking point: conditioning. When Embiid has experienced long absences in the past, his fitness level has routinely been a cause for concern. Since the injury was to his hand and not his lower body, he’s been able to do more while he’s been out.

The team has taken heat in the past for Embiid perhaps not returning in the best condition.

Ultimately, Embiid is taking it upon himself.

“Well, me personally, as a professional, you gotta take care of yourself,” Embiid said. “You got to take care of your own business. From summertime to when the season started and to this moment, you got some bike, you got some elliptical, so every night, just got to come in and get some sweat on and your heart rate up.”

He’s getting healthy. It sounds like he’s motivated. Looks like we’ll find out soon enough.

He can be whatever he wants to be,” Brown said. “The ultimate aim, the ultimate goal that we all talk about is his legacy as an NBA champion. The other stuff is great, but it doesn’t even come close to the end game, the thing that to me is kind of everybody’s judgement day — are you an NBA champion? And there have been many great players and many great coaches who just have not been able to claim that. That’s my ambition, that’s my aspiration for him, to help him achieve that.

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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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