How will Joel Embiid’s absence due to a positive test for COVID-19 affect the 76ers? – Community News
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How will Joel Embiid’s absence due to a positive test for COVID-19 affect the 76ers?

This one hurts the 76ers otherwise.

That’s not a blow to Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe, who are on the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. But the weight of the Sixers rests on the shoulders of Joel Embiid.

The four-time All-Star must play at the elite level, stay healthy and stay in shape so the Sixers can compete for their first NBA title since 1983. Embiid, who has been vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and joined his team. three teammates and a staff member in protocols.

A vaccinated player can usually return after a 10-day quarantine or after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Embiid is symptomatic. That suggests he could be out for more than 10 days.

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid is the latest Sixers player to be placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols

“I mean, he’s not doing great,” coach Doc Rivers said before Monday’s 103-96 loss to the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center. “It’s bothering him. It’s very similar to Tobias. That’s all I can tell you.”

Harris, who is also fully vaccinated and symptomatic, suffers from fatigue and congestion.

So what shape will Embiid be in when he returns?

How will his absence affect the Sixers?

“Do you really want to ask that question?” said Rivers.

Not trying to rule out what the loss of Embiid means to the team, the coach said: “You don’t have Joel. He’s a pretty good player,” before adding that Harris and Thybulle were pretty good while Joe was a good shooter.

“So we just don’t have a lot of numbers, you know?” said Rivers. “So it’s clear that this is just a great challenge. That’s exactly how I want our guys to look at it. It would be a great story to tell if you can pull these games out.

“And that’s what I want our mindset to be.”

The Sixers dropped to 8-3 and had broken their six-game winning streak. It also marked their second loss in as many games against the Knicks (7-4).

Fortunately for the Sixers, Danny Green returned from his left hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games. So they went with a small starting grid of Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey.

The Sixers fought back from a 19-point deficit in the first half to come within one point four times in the fourth quarter. The latter made it an 89-88 game with 5 minutes and 1 second to go. But Julius Randle responded with a layup and a corner three-pointer on the ensuing possessions to narrow the Knicks’ lead to six.

After Korkmaz cleared a three, Randle reacted with another to put the Knicks at 97-91 with 2:54 left.

Then Kemba Walker added a three-point play before Randle scored on a layup to extend New York’s lead to 11 with 1:11 left.

“I actually thought we ran out of gas several times,” Rivers said. “It was funny. In the first half I thought we got some incredible open shots. You can see our heavy legs. What is this, our fifth game in eight nights? Tomorrow is our sixth game in nine nights shorthanded. It’s what it is I like the effort.

“I thought fatigue was an absolute factor for us.”

Randle, an All-Star power forward, scored 10 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. He also finished with 12 rebounds.

The Sixers had six double-digit scorers in Korkmaz (19 points), Maxey (16), Curry (14), Drummond (14, season 25 rebounds), and reserves Georges Niang (15) and Shake Milton (10).

After the game, most of the New York fans in attendance chanted: ‘Let’s Go Knicks! … Let’s go Knicks!”

Embiid was scheduled to miss the game due to halftime before testing positive. This was the fifth consecutive game that the Sixers were understaffed. They were without at least one protagonist in all those matchups because of COVID.

But this is definitely different when it comes to the team’s franchise player with a history of being out of form when absent for extended periods of time.

The Sixers didn’t have five players from their 15-man squad against the Knicks.

Ben Simmons is not mentally ready to play yet. Harris was placed in protocols on Nov. 1, and Joe joined him on Thursday. Joe’s diagnosis prompted the entire team to get tested for the virus before Thursday’s game against the Pistons in Detroit. Everyone got a negative test at the time.

Thybulle, whose locker is next to Joe’s, was placed in protocols a day later for contact tracing. The two also sat side by side on the bench during Wednesday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls. But Thybulle is still out.

Then on Monday, the Sixers learned that Embiid had tested positive.

“It was shocking,” Curry said. “You never know if Jo is serious or not. But it’s just a shame.”

The Sixers were lucky enough to sign Drummond, a two-time All-Star, in free agency this summer. He is a solid backup and insurance policy for Embiid.

“This is clearly an extreme case without Joel,” Rivers said. “We had not foreseen this. But we do have a bona fide startup center. And that certainly helps us.”

But Embiid’s presence will be missed for a long time, especially with the already understaffed team.

He has averaged 21.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists in his career and 1.4 blocks. Embiid finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds in Saturday’s win over the Bulls. But he’s also been more of a playmaker for teammates this season.

The Sixers will entertain the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. The Bucks were honored Monday by President Joe Biden at the White House for winning the title.

“Hopefully President Biden will get the Bucks to drink as much as possible at the White House today,” Rivers joked. “But they’ll be fresh in. Think about it: they come in fresh and we play them tomorrow.”

After that, the Sixers will host the Toronto Raptors on Thursday before embarking on a six-game road trip that includes stops at the Indiana Pacers (Sunday), Utah Jazz (November 16), Denver Nuggets (November 18), Portland Trail Blazers (November 20), Sacramento Kings (November 22) and Golden State Warriors (November 24). Assuming Embiid is out for at least 10 days, he probably wouldn’t qualify until the game against the Blazers. Even that game can be considered a rush due to the post-COVID reconditioning.

» READ MORE: The Sixers’ efficient attack is put to the test this week as East’s elite come to Philadelphia

Embiid has to play often to stay in shape. And there really isn’t much or nothing, he will be able to do basketball during quarantine.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Rivers said before Monday’s game. “I think anyone who has been hit by this hard battle will come back for a while. So I’m sure he will be too. But the conditioning part of it, you know I feel like he’s going to be done with conditioning.

“In short, I can’t project outwards. We have to focus on today’s game and tomorrow’s game and then see what we have after that.”

But the Sixers have been hit hard by the protocols of the competition.

The NBA sent a memo to teams advising league personnel who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to seek a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot. It said those on the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are advised to get every booster available.

“I’m pro booster,” Rivers said. “I was with Marquette. That’s a joke. I’m still pro booster. I just think if you can get it, you should get it.

“Listen, this is still there. COVID is not over. And it’s still very much in play.”