CAMDEN, N.J. — One game in and the Sixers are already dealing with injuries to key players.
Joel Embiid has been diagnosed with a right ankle sprain after experiencing discomfort following Wednesday’s season-opening win over Boston. He is listed as questionable for Saturday night’s game in Detroit.
Embiid also took an elbow to the mouth from the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown that required sutures and a dental procedure. A team spokesperson said his questionable status has to do with the ankle, not the mouth injury.
Veteran Mike Scott is also dealing with an ankle sprain. He came down awkwardly on his left ankle during the second quarter against Boston. He’ll also be questionable vs. the Pistons.
Two-way player Marial Shayok and second-year guard Zhaire Smith won’t travel with the team as they prepare for the Delaware Blue Coats' training camp. Big man Norvel Pelle, the Sixers’ other two-way player, will join the team in Detroit.
If there is one man who understands how to deal with the injuries, it’s Brett Brown.
"[It’s] part of the rhythm beat of an NBA 82-game schedule,” Brown said after practice Friday. “You just move on. You really do. They're getting good care, they're being well looked after and you move on."
The Sixers as a team have adapted to life without Embiid. He dealt with knee tendinitis at the end of last season which caused him to miss 10 of the last 24 regular-season games and Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against the Nets.
It’s way too early to know the severity or if he’ll miss time at all, but the current Sixers’ regime will likely err on the side of caution with Embiid — especially this early in the season.
GM Elton Brand admitted at the end of last season that the team was ill-prepared to handle these types of situations. That’s why he went out and signed Al Horford and Kyle O’Quinn. Having two veterans like Horford and O’Quinn should mitigate any Embiid absence.
As we saw on opening night when both Embiid and Horford got into foul trouble, O’Quinn is more than capable of giving this team solid minutes.
“His energy, it’s amazing,” Ben Simmons said of O’Quinn. “He’s a physical guy. Obviously, he knocked down that three — he loved that. And he plays with pace. He’s got good feet, can defend. He’s a big body down there. So, he’s a great addition to the team.”
The Sixers are a team with championship aspirations. Teams with that mindset typically have great depth and the mentality of “next man up.”
It wasn’t just the backup center spot that Brand shored up this season. He also brought in veterans Raul Neto and Trey Burke. While neither of those players will be able to replace Embiid or Scott, the versatility of the Sixers’ other players allows Brown to get creative. He can play Horford at the four or five and Tobias Harris at the three or four. He can play Simmons … well … anywhere.
The Sixers can also give impressive rookie Matisse Thybulle more minutes or use second-year guard Shake Milton, a player the team seems to be high on.
"I think as a team we're just next man up and be ready to play and be ready to pick each other up," Harris said. “We want those guys to get healthy, but if they're unable to go and we're shorthanded, we'll get added resources from our bench and from other guys to be able to step up and have an opportunity, so we'll be prepared, we'll be ready.”
The Sixers will play six of the next seven on the road with a brutal West Coast swing looming starting in Portland next Saturday.
An early test for a team with the loftiest of goals.
"It's the same thing — you're just sort of numb to it all,” Brown said. “You just move on and pick up and you're in Philadelphia or you're not, and you go coach a game. You prepare the same way. ... Like I've said many times, this league isn't for everybody. It's just the wear and tear, the pace of it, is as good as a weeding out sort of system to push aside the people that are sort of less prepared to deal with this.”
With injuries and a tough road slate, the Sixers may have their mettle tested soon.
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