NEW YORK -- The Sixers are heading toward the end of the season the same way it began: dealing with a point guard injury.
First, it was Jerryd Bayless in training camp. Now it is Sergio Rodriguez. He will miss a week after suffering a strained left hamstring in Sunday's game against the Pacers.
"It's a little strain," Rodriguez said. "They say it's going to be about a week, then they'll see how it goes afterward. I feel good. It's a mess because there's no pain at all."
Rodriguez strained his hamstring during the first half Sunday. He continued to play and told the Sixers' trainer he thought he pulled it "a little bit." When he woke up on Monday morning, he felt some discomfort and wanted to have an MRI to check it out. The scan on Tuesday revealed a strain.
Rodriguez had been hitting his stride as of late. In his last two games, he was averaging 14.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.0 turnovers. Brown credited him for being a key player in the Sixers' win over the Bulls last Friday.
"It was great to have the opportunity to be playing more," Rodriguez said. "It hurts not to be able to play tonight because of this little thing."
Here's where the depth chart gets interesting: Nik Stauskas moves over from the two-spot to become the backup point guard. Stauskas has done this during the season and was comfortable in that role in Tuesday's 106-101 victory over the Nets (see game recap). He scored 11 points with four rebounds and two assists while playing a combination of point and shooting guard, but more importantly, he was a plus-10 while at the point.
"When you don't have Sergio and you're searching for other point guard options, we have tried this sporadically before with Nik," Brown said. "It was excellent. I think we all see his skill package with the ball. He's big enough to rise up behind a pick-and-roll and punish it if people go under."
Stauskas is comfortable at point guard. He works on dribbling drills after practices and before games.
"The ball is in my hands and I think that's when I'm at my best, when I'm able to make plays," Stauskas said. "When I get to play the point guard I'm excited just because I know I'm going to be in the pick-and-roll a little bit and I know I'm going to have a chance to handle it and get guys involved. I feel like the offense was running pretty smoothly when I was out there."
In the chance that both starting point guard T.J. McConnell and Stauskas are unavailable while Rodriguez is out, Brown would look to Dario Saric as the next option. Saric isn't about to become a point-forward, but if the Sixers had to go that far down the roster to find a ball handler he would get the call.
"I think if you put another four-man on Dario Saric, he's going to have no problem bringing the ball up the floor," Brown said. "Sometimes the elite defensive four-men, like Draymond Green, may make me pull some of that back. But [Saric] has guard skills. We've seen it in the open court. We've seen enough to know my comments aren't outrageous. In the situation we're in, you could connect some of those dots."
Even though he can't play, Bayless has been staying a part of the team. He injured ligaments in his left wrist in October, came back in November and appeared in just three games before reinjuring it and undergoing season-ending surgery.
Bayless has been with the Sixers on road trips, including the five-city swing they wrapped up in Brooklyn. The Sixers signed the veteran to complement Ben Simmons with his ability to play both point and shooting guard. Since both players are sidelined, they have been building chemistry during their travels.
On the court, Bayless has been working on his shot after shootarounds. He also does cardio on the treadmill to stay in shape.
"It feels good," Bayless said. "It's still rehabbing and whatnot. It's not a lot I can do with this wrist yet. It's still going through it. It'll take a little bit, probably another month until it's totally back to a hundred percent."
After missing all but three games this season, he is glad to get in reps even if it's in sweats and not a uniform.
"Being able to be back on the court, honestly, is probably the best part," Bayless said. "I missed it. I missed it. So it's good to actually be able to do things again."