Sixers

Simmons, Embiid will miss time after break due to COVID protocols

Sixers

The Sixers’ two All-Stars were unable to participate in Sunday’s All-Star Game after being exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. They also won’t be available to play in the Sixers’ first game back after the break.

Both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are quarantining for seven days from their last exposure, a Sixers team official said. As long as each continues to test negative for COVID-19, Embiid will be cleared to return once he receives a lab-based PCR negative result on Friday, while Simmons will be cleared Saturday should he meet the same criteria.

The Sixers play the Bulls Thursday in Chicago and face the Wizards Friday in Washington, D.C., before playing their first game at Wells Fargo Center with fans in attendance for over a year Sunday against the Spurs.

The team is 1-5 this season without Embiid. That one victory was an improbable comeback win over the Pacers spurred by Matisse Thybulle’s brilliance at the top of a 2-3 zone. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Sixers’ net rating has been 19.4 points better when Embiid’s on the floor than when he’s off it. The 26-year-old averaged 30.2 points with a 64.6 true shooting percentage and 11.6 rebounds in the first half of the season, establishing himself as a formidable MVP candidate. Last time he played Chicago, he scored a career-high 50 points.

 

Without Simmons, the Sixers have a 2-3 mark. They did win their last two Simmons-less games when he was sidelined by an illness, mid-February contests against the Rockets and Bulls. Thybulle guarded All-Star Zach LaVine very well in the victory over Chicago. Though LaVine managed 30 points, he shot 9 for 28 from the floor.

Asked about Simmons and Embiid’s situation before the All-Star Game, LaVine was sympathetic.

“Extremely unfortunate," he said Sunday. “From what I’ve heard, they did everything right. I think they had close contact with their barber, and the barber was getting tested daily. ... It’s not like they were trying to hide it or they were doing something wrong. They did everything right and they still (were) in the wrong place at the wrong time. Extremely unfortunate and sad but I think, with the time that we live in right now, you can’t be too safe.”

Tobias Harris, who returned from a right knee contusion to score 11 overtime points in the Sixers’ win last week over the Jazz, will be expected to fill a large chunk of the temporary void created by Simmons and Embiid's absence.

At 24-12, the Sixers are first in the Eastern Conference and lead the second-place Nets by a half-game. They have eight games remaining before the March 25 trade deadline.

Embiid, who dealt with back, ankle and knee issues in the first half, wants to play as much as possible. When it comes to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, though, there’s nothing he can do.

“I like to make myself available to my teammates,” he said on March 1. “Even if (my health is) not all the way there, if there’s a chance, that’s what I want to do — especially for the rest of this season, because that No. 1 seed is very important for me and for us. We need to get that No. 1 seed. Every single game, I’ve got to be out there and play, even if I’m not 100 percent.”