The current stretch of games following the NBA All-Star break for the Philadelphia 76ers have all come without star center Joel Embiid. While Embiid has been sidelined for seven games due to left knee soreness, the injury does not appear to be serious. And fortunately, the Sixers have managed to post an above-.500 record over that stretch, going 4-3 including a tough last-second loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
Next up for the Sixers is a date with the Houston Rockets and MVP candidate James Harden on the road. While Embiid will not suit up for this game, there is some positive news on his potential return which points to him likely returning to action over the weekend.
We’re going to take a look at the latest on Embiid’s injury timeline, as well as Philly’s roster and starting lineup for the game against the Rockets. Filling the void without the 24-year-old big man has been a tall task, and a number of players have stepped up to this point.
Joel Embiid May Return Sunday
While Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice reported that Embiid did not travel with the team to Houston, he provided a positive update on the All-Star’s timeline. Per Neubeck, the Sixers believe Embiid has made good progress and he has a chance to play Sunday against the Indiana Pacers.
Beyond that, Brian Michael Jacobs of Philly Front Office reported that Embiid is “fine” and that the expectation is to see him suit up against the Pacers.
It’s a very positive update, although fans surely would have loved to see the big man on the court for a key game against the Rockets. Regardless, his return seems near, and in the meantime, the Sixers have at least one more game of replacing Embiid in the starting five.
Sixers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Rockets
*Notates expected starter
C: Amir Johnson*, Jonah Bolden, Justin Patton
PF: Tobias Harris*, Mike Scott
SF: Jimmy Butler*, James Ennis
SG: JJ Redick*, Jonathon Simmons
PG: Ben Simmons (Q)*, T.J. McConnell
Update: Ben Simmons is questionable with an illness.
Boban Marjanovic had originally been starting in place of Embiid, but he suffered a knee injury and will be sidelined for this game as well. From there, it was Jonah Bolden who held down the starting role before missing Tuesday’s game against the Orlando Magic with an illness. At that point, the Sixers turned to veteran Amir Johnson and then proceeded to start him again against the Bulls.
Johnson played 20 minutes in both starts, tallying nine points with eight rebounds against the Bulls. Bolden will see minutes in the high-teens to low-20s more than likely, as he played 18 last game. Philly could opt to go somewhat small more often than not, as Mike Scott has also logged big minutes in Embiid’s absence, receiving 26 last game and 28 prior to that.
With Embiid out, the Sixers’ other four normal starters in Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and JJ Redick have done the heavy lifting and played big minutes consistently.