CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid will miss at least the next two games — including Tuesday’s reunion with former co-star Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets — with a left midfoot sprain he suffered in Saturday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“How do I make up for Joel? We’ve just got to play,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers said after Monday’s practice. “We worked today on a lot of movement stuff offensively. We’re not going to be a big team. With [P.J. Tucker] and [Montrezl Harrell] and Paul Reed, we’ll just figure it out and go ahead.”
The team said Embiid’s status, beyond missing Tuesday’s home game against Brooklyn and Wednesday’s game in Charlotte, will be “reevaluated in the coming days.”
After the Thanksgiving holiday, Philadelphia plays in Orlando on Friday and Sunday before returning home to face the Atlanta Hawks next Monday and playing in Cleveland next Wednesday to close out the month of November.
Embiid suffered the injury when teammate Georges Niang accidentally fell on him on a fast break during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 112-109 loss to the Timberwolves, rolling up on Embiid’s leg and sending the superstar center crashing to the floor in pain.
Eventually, Embiid got to his feet and finished out the contest, though not before spending a long time on the ground in pain — which caused Rivers to walk over to the opposite end of the court to see how his big man was doing.
“Honestly, whenever a big guy goes, my eyes go to his knees first,” Rivers said, “and then work my way down. When I saw him grabbing his foot, I was already a little relieved, because I thought maybe his ankle. But you just don’t know. Everybody is going down right now around here, so if somebody goes down, you get really scared.”
Embiid is now added to an injury list that includes James Harden, who has been out for basically all of November with his own foot injury, and Tyrese Maxey, who suffered a left foot sprain in Friday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, leaving the 76ers decimated for Tuesday night’s arrival of Simmons — who will play for the first time in Philadelphia since being traded for Harden last February.
Maxey spoke Monday for the first time since he suffered his injury, which happened late in the first half of Friday’s game. And, in typical fashion, the third-year guard did his best to look at the bright side of life even as he’ll be forced to sit on the sidelines for the next three to four weeks amid what has been a breakout season.
“I feel good,” Maxey said. “I’m happy. It’s life. So I’m glad I get to be here and still support my teammates and I can walk and smile and my family is in town, so it’s great.
“I’m grateful to be alive every single day. Every time I get to wake up and I can breathe and walk around and move around and have all my limbs and stuff, I still thank God every single day. So I’m happy.”
While the 76ers added Embiid to the injury list, they were happy to begin to get some players back on the court. Tobias Harris, who has missed the past two games with a hip issue, practiced Monday and said he “hopes” to play Tuesday.
Harden, who said Thursday he remains “on pace” to return on schedule from his foot sprain, which should be sometime in the first week of December, was seen running on a treadmill as practice was ending. And Rivers said there is “optimism” Furkan Korkmaz could return from a knee issue, as well. Tucker is expected to play after missing the start of the second half Saturday with his own injury issue, while De’Anthony Melton has continued to play through back trouble recently, too.
Still, Rivers knows it’s going to be a challenge to play without the team’s three leading scorers — and it’ll become four if Harris is unable to play, as well. But he said that isn’t something he and the remaining healthy players can spend time worrying about, and instead the goal is to find ways to make the best of the situation the team finds itself in and grab some wins to stay afloat until Philadelphia can get its stars back on the court.
“You don’t worry about it,” Rivers said of navigating through the season playing short-handed. “You try to get through it, you try to sneak some wins out. Any win now for us is a big win, so we try to get them, and we’ve got a lot of games left, so we know if we can get guys back, we’ll make a run. And this, a lot of guys that don’t play, or don’t play a lot of minutes, will get a chance to play a lot of minutes. There will be a silver lining here somewhere. Even if it’s not sometimes one player, it might be an action offensively or defensively that we like to do that we actually like now and then when guys come back we’ll do it more.
“So we’ll get something out of this. But like I told the guys, what I really want to find is wins. Let’s find a way to win a game.”