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Joel Embiid increases basketball activity, Sixers recall Zhaire Smith

Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are even more depleted after losing Josh Richardson for at least two-to-three weeks with a slight left hamstring sprain, but there is some good news when it comes to Joel Embiid’s recovery. After suffering a torn radial collateral ligament in the fourth metacarpal in his left hand, Embiid participated in a full practice today and is expected to be re-evaluated on Monday.

With Embiid participating in practice, including contact drills, his left hand is clearly progressing well.

Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck shared footage of Embiid getting some shots up.

In less significant news, the Sixers have also recalled Zhaire Smith from the G League. He will be available for Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s not too surprising to see the Sixers make Smith available. Without Richardson, it makes sense to have another guard active. However, this isn’t the first time the Sixers have called up Smith (such as during Matisse Thybulle’s two-week absence) and he didn’t get any run. Thybulle has started the last five games and performed well in his extra minutes (30.5 a night), while Furkan Korkmaz has been playing better than ever lately. In 24.1 minutes over the last five games, he’s averaged 16.6 points on 46.7 percent shooting, including a 50 percent stroke from deep with at least 3 made triples in each game. Both wings have been earning larger roles.

Possibly starting Trey Burke or Raul Neto to provide some extra ball handling in the starting lineup would make sense. Brett Brown has switched between his two backup guards a lot this season, but at the very least, giving Burke and/or Neto some extra minutes while Richardson is out would help.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia noted at today’s practice that Shake Milton is expected to keep getting some run after playing 22 minutes in the Sixers’ last game against the Toronto Raptors. Milton did fairly well, too, primarily thanks to hitting 3 threes. More usage of Ben Simmons as a roll man, whoever’s serving as the ball handler, is something the Sixers need to keep embracing.

There could be a chance Smith gets a few minutes against some of the Sixers’ weaker upcoming opponents. While they are facing some top teams over the next couple of weeks before the All-Star break (such as the Celtics, Heat, Bucks and Clippers), they do have a couple of easier games against the Warriors and Hawks coming up after they play the Lakers this weekend. If there’s going to be any garbage time for Smith, it’ll be in these contests.

For now, though, it seems far more likely that — despite Brown’s positivity regarding Smith’s play in the G League — others such as Milton, Thybulle and Korkmaz will carry more of the load.

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