The two Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Stars were unable to participate in Sunday’s All-Star Game after being exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. To follow up with that, they won’t be available to play in the Sixers’ first game back after the break. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are quarantining for seven days, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
As long as each continues to test negative for COVID-19, Embiid will be cleared to return as soon as he receives a lab-based PCR negative result on Friday, while Simmons will have to be cleared Saturday, should he meet the same criteria.
The Sixers play the Chicago Bulls Thursday at the United Center, and then 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 San Antonio Spurs.
The team is 1-5 this season without Embiid. That one victory was an improbable comeback win over the Pacers due to Matisse Thybulle’s on defense.
The Sixers’ net rating has been 19.4 points better when Embiid’s on the floor than when he’s off it, per Cleaning the Glass.
The 26-year-old averaged 30.2 points with a 64.6 shooting percentage and 11.6 rebounds in the first half of the season, making himself the number one MVP candidate. Last time he played Chicago, he scored a career-high 50 points.
Without Simmons, the Sixers are 2-3. They did win their last two Simmons-less games when he was sidelined by an illness, mid-February contests against the Houston Rockets and Bulls. Thybulle guarded All-Star Zach LaVine very well in the victory over Chicago. Though LaVine managed to post 30 points and shoot nine for 28 from the floor.
Asked about Simmons and Embiid’s situation before the All-Star Game, LaVine was sympathetic. “Extremely unfortunate,” LaVine 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.
Embiid, who has 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,” Embiid 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 number one seed is very important for me and for (the team). We need to get that number one seed. Every single game, I’ve got to be out there and play, even if I’m not 100%.”
At 24-12, the Sixers are first in the Eastern Conference and lead the second-place Brooklyn Nets by a half-game. They have eight games remaining before the March 25 trade deadline.