When Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game due to possible COVID-19 exposure, optimism remained that the pair would be ready in time to tip-off the second half of the season.
Now, it appears as though coach Doc Rivers and his crew will have to find ways to win a game or two without Philly’s dynamic duo.
As reported first by The Athletic’s Shams Charania via Twitter, Embiid and Simmons will be required to quarantine at least until Friday and Saturday, respectively, due to contact tracing. That timeline would see both players missing the 76ers’ road bout with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.
Simmons, meanwhile, would also miss the team’s road game against the Washington Wizards on the following night.
Depending on the results of their continued coronavirus screens — both players have tested negative so far — additional games could also be in question.
Simmons & Embiid Have a Bad Hair Day
As relayed previously by Heavy, Embiid and Simmons were forced into the league’s health and safety protocols as the result of contact with a barber ahead of their trip to Atlanta, Georgia for the All-Star Game. The barber later tested positive for COVID-19, putting their All-Star status in doubt.
The two were ruled out in short order when the barber registered a second positive test result.
Consequently, Doc Rivers was left as the team’s only representative at the NBA’s mid-season classic; Embiid and Simmons were on planes headed for Philadelphia before the contest even tipped off.
It was an incredible stroke of bad luck for the players, who reportedly took precautions to protect themselves for their appointments. During the All-Star Game, Embiid took to Twitter to lament the fact that so many other participants appeared to have rolled out with new trims, while he and Simmons found themselves excluded.
“Looking at those fresh shape-ups and I had to be the one,” he wrote, while posting a picture of himself shrugging at a referee during the Sixers’ recent win over the Utah Jazz.
Both Players Must Continue to Test Negative
After the All-Star Game, there was some level of confusion as to exactly how long Embiid and Simmons would have to quarantine.
“We need some more good news, where it’s five days. If it’s five days, I think we’re in the clear,” Rivers said following the contest. “Anything longer, I think then they’ll miss some games.”
Now, with a week-long quarantine in place, it has become clear that the Sixers will be tasked with winning a back-to-back road set without their MVP and DPOY candidates. And if Embiid and Simmons are to return at all this weekend, they’ll have to continue to test negative.
In any case, their absence comes at an inopportune time for the Sixers, as the Brooklyn Nets — who just inked multi-time All-Star Blake Griffin — trail them by just a half-game in the Eastern Conference standings. The Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, are just two games behind top-seeded Philly.