After nine games on the sidelines, the Sixers' franchise cornerstone might return Saturday night.
The Sixers on Friday listed Joel Embiid as questionable for their game against the Timberwolves. Embiid hasn't played since Nov. 6 following a positive COVID-19 test.
Tobias Harris was also listed as questionable. He missed the final two games of the Sixers' recently concluded 2-4 road trip with left hip soreness.
Embiid was the fourth and final Sixer to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols during a stretch from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8. Harris, Isaiah Joe and Matisse Thybulle were the others. That trio returned during the road trip.
“He’s not doing great," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said of Embiid on Nov. 8, the day he went into the league's protocols. “He’s struggling with it. Very similar to Tobias. That’s all I can tell you.”
The Sixers have gone 2-7 since Embiid entered the protocols. The team also dealt with other key players sitting out games for various reasons during that time, including Harris, Thybulle, Danny Green and Seth Curry. Ben Simmons has yet to be active this season after requesting a trade and telling the Sixers he's not mentally ready to play.
Tyrese Maxey was tremendous over the past nine games, averaging 23.7 points on 48.8/42.1/91.1 shooting splits and 4.6 assists, but the Sixers were expectedly a much worse team without their best player. They shot 32.9 percent from three-point range and, per Cleaning the Glass, were 17th in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating.
Andre Drummond has started every game Embiid has missed this year. The 28-year-old has been a game-changing rebounder at times, recording 25 boards against the Knicks and 23 against the Kings. In practically every other way, however, he's been a substantial downgrade from Embiid.
Paul Reed, Georges Niang and Charles Bassey have also received minutes at center with Embiid out. Bassey impressed with that opportunity by posting 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the Sixers' win over Denver.