Sixers fans got a news update they didn't even know they were supposed to be dreading on Tuesday night, when the team announced that sharpshooting starting guard JJ Redick would be out with "a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg." Redick suffered the injury Monday against the Raptors he will be "re-evaluated in approximately 10 days to two weeks." (This was, of course, preceded by a Woj Firecracker in which he commented that Redick's injury "isn’t serious and he will likely miss only a short window of time," which should inspire some cold sweating over how bad we were supposed to initially be expecting this injury to be.)
To a certain extent, injuries like this are to be expected over the course of the NBA season. It may not feel like it, with Joel Embiid a perpetual DNP risk and Markelle Fultz suffering from jump-shot amnesia, but the Sixers had actually been relatively lucky with health so far this season. Out of a possible 40 games so far, none of Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell or Redick have played fewer than 35, with even Embiid's 31 played feeling slightly miraculous. Someone important from their rotation — no, Justin Anderson doesn't count — was bound to miss a couple weeks with injury.
But, man, losing Redick right now is gonna hurt. It's not just that he's been scorching lately — though that he undoubtedly has been, averaging 20 a game with a 51/46/94 percent shooting slash line over his last eight, since coming back from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss two contests. It's that while he's been that hot, the rest of the team has gone ice cold.
Saric was similarly searing from deep at the beginning of 2018, but he's cooled off in the last couple, hitting just 2 of his last 10 triples. Jerryd Bayless has hit multiple threes in only one of his last 10 games. Covington, whose three-point bombing was so furious at season's beginning we started to wonder if Redick was gonna get jealous, has now gone just 31 percent from deep over the same eight-game stretch when Redick has been raining holy Process hellfire. Even McConnell, who never seems to miss when he actually deigns to take a triple, is just one for his last nine from distance. And three-point shooting continues to be the one blight on Embiid's otherwise superlative sophomore season, as he's just 3 for 17 from three so far in 2018.
With only six players that Brett Brown can really trust right now — maybe seven if you wanna give Amir Johnson the benefit of the doubt — injuries to anyone is devastating to the Sixers' chances to be competitive on a nightly basis. And, as previously harped on here at The 700 Level, the Sixers are currently in the midst of a particularly tough January, which will see them play the Celtics, Bucks (twice), Spurs and Thunder — as well as the much-improved Bulls — over the next two weeks.
What to do for the Sixers, then, in JJ's absence? Well, we'll certainly see a lot more of Bayless' streaky shooting, and maybe some more minutes for a recovering Anderson. We may also get a first look at the recently-signed wing James Young, who shot 37 percent on 9.4 attempts a game from deep this season in the G-League. And, hopefully, we see some greater offensive aggression from McConnell, who after the Raptors game, essentially owned up to the fact that he has to be willing to take open shots when they're given to him if he wants to be the Sixers' fifth guy down the stretch.
Of course, it's tempting to wonder if this might not be the perfect circumstances for the return of Fultz to the Sixers' rotation. But such hopes don't seem particularly practical at the moment —Fultz's jumper has obviously not fixed itself overnight (or, uh, over two months), and no one — not even Brown — is pretending there isn't a major problem here. I don't know how or when the Fultz situation will get better, but in the meantime, it's hard to see him returning anytime soon, and even harder to picture him being the cure for what ails the undermanned Sixers if he does.
Perhaps the biggest worry here, if you're a Sixers fan, is if Redick's injury will end up pushing the Colangelos toward making a short-sighted move to bolster their current depth, a.k.a. the much-feared "panic trade." If the Sixers struggle over their next two weeks — going 2-5, say, and dropping to three or four games out of the playoff picture — it's not impossible that the team will sniff around a quick-fix upgrade on the wings. The good (or bad) thing for the Sixers is there aren't a ton of obvious names that are both available and fit the team's timeline of trying for max cap space this summer — and both Lou Williams and Nikola Mirotic have likely priced themselves out of any cheap deadline dealings with their strong play of late.
But, hey, while we're on the subject of short-sighted deadline dealings: Boy, could sure use Nik Stauskas right now, huh? Not to say that he's lighting it up since being sent to Brooklyn in December by any means — he hasn't scored more than five points in a game this year for Brooklyn — but he is shooting 47 percent from deep for them in his limited looks, and again, the Sixers thrived a year ago with Sauce as their starting two, even when he wasn't putting up numbers. He'd never be the long-term solution for Philly, but there was always a scenario in which it'd be helpful for the team to have him around in a pinch, and now that theoretical is upon us. (Meanwhile, since scoring 40 combined points in his first three games for the Sixers, Trevor Booker has scored a whopping 38 total in the 12 contests since.)
Bottom line: This is gonna be a tough couple of weeks coming up for Philly. The good news? No back-to-backs for the Sixers this month, so no games yet where we definitely won't have Embiid or Redick. And if the Sixers can manage to tread water the next few weeks — even going 3-4 would be pretty acceptable — things should get a lot easier for them in February and especially March, when hopefully the team will be closer to whole again. Just have to hope nothing else Woj-worthy happens with the Sixers in the meantime.