The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the NBA in a number of ways, most notably with a shortened 72-game schedule. The compact slate has left teams with fewer nights off and more back-to-back games in 2021. Tobias Harris called the entire ordeal “ridiculous” after Monday’s practice.
Harris has been managing right knee soreness all year while posting All-Star worthy numbers: 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game. But the 28-year-old has found it hard to adjust to the unorthodox schedule. Professional athletes are creatures of habit and not having normal days off has turned traditional practices into mini vacations.
“This season honestly is pretty ridiculous,” Harris told reporters. “When you look at the amount of games, when you do get practice time it’s kind of dedicated to actually rest, it’s more like individual instruction. Whereas like, normal season, you have two-day breaks, those are frequent in the regular season. Now, you get a two-day break, yesterday felt like a vacation for me.”
Players have been treating practices more like shootarounds, instead of doing a lot of set work and team drills. The Sixers will get a full week off before the start of the playoffs and Harris pin-pointed one area where the team needs to improve.
“As a team, we definitely want to be better in transition, I think we’ve said that all season long,” Harris said. “And I’m going to add communication. We haven’t been communicating as much.”
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Doc Rivers Provides Injury Update
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers provided a tentative injury report on a few key players after Monday’s session. Joel Embiid and Shake Milton both missed practice because of “management” days, while Matisse Thybulle sat out to avoid further injuring his hand. The defensive stalwart was hurt during the Sixers’ 118-104 win on Saturday when Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant landed awkwardly on him. He’s not expected to miss any significant time.
“Matisse hurt his hand in the last game,” Rivers said, “so we didn’t want anybody to hit it because that would take him out of any chance of playing tomorrow.”
Furkan Korkmaz also missed Monday’s practice. He has been sidelined for three straight games with a right ankle issue. Korkmaz is “close” to coming back, per Rivers, but the head coach wouldn’t provide a timeline for his return.
The team returns to action on Tuesday night (May 11) on the road against the Indiana Pacers at 8 p.m. Their game on Thursday night (May 13) versus the Miami Heat in South Beach at 7:30 p.m. has been moved into the national spotlight on TNT. Two more wins and they clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I think a lot of people are excited but we got business to handle,” Harris said. “We need to get those wins to lock up the No. 1 seed.”
Balancing Rest vs. Rust, Using Time Off Wisley
Rivers made it clear on Monday that he intends to keep the foot on the gas. The head coach doesn’t want his guys heading into a seven-game playoff series with heavy legs or bad conditioning.
Team rhythm is as much a mental hurdle as a physical one. Remember, the Sixers will get a full week off between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. They need to balance rest versus rust.
“We wouldn’t just do nothing. We would probably do some practicing or something,” Rivers told reporters. “Guys are rhyth-matic, that’s how they play basketball. But we’re’ going to have a week off regardless, no matter what we do once we clinch. So we just have to figure out how to use that time wisely.”