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Joel Embiid questionable to return for Sixers vs. Warriors

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

The Philadelphia 76ers are close to getting back their best player. Joel Embiid started increasing his basketball activity recently after missing the last 9 games due to a torn radial collateral ligament in the fourth metacarpal in his left hand. He participated in a full practice (including contact drills) last Friday, and is now listed as questionable for Tuesday’s home game against the Golden State Warriors.

As The Athletic’s Derek Bodner also noted, Embiid will see a specialist beforehand to determine whether he’ll play.

Another injury note is the status of Zhaire Smith. He managed to get on the court for the first time this season in the Sixers’ 108-91 win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Unfortunately, he was only able to play 3 minutes before leaving with a left ankle sprain. Smith was a limited participant in today’s practice, and is also listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game.

As you’d expect, the Sixers have had ups and downs without Embiid. Their life has also been made even more difficult by the injury of Josh Richardson, who left after 4 minutes against the Toronto Raptors on January 22 with a slight strain in his left hamstring. The Sixers have scraped past a few weak opponents with underwhelming performances, but have still managed to go 6-3. Their latest dominant win against the Lakers was an encouraging one at both ends of the floor — even with the Lakers below their best, playing their third road game in four days. As should always be the case, the Sixers should feel no need to rush Embiid back from injury if he could benefit from a little more time out.

Philly has been led by the tremendous play of Ben Simmons. In Embiid’s absence, Simmons has averaged 21.6 points (65.3 percent shooting), 9.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists (3 turnovers) and 2.3 steals per game, all while playing All-Defensive First Team caliber defense. Simmons has had some of the best games of his career in this stretch, coming against Brooklyn on January 20 and Los Angeles on January 25.

Obviously there are going to be some changes when Embiid returns. Simmons won’t need to score as much, his heavy minutes should decrease somewhat with less pressure on him, and some stylistic adjustments are maximized when Embiid is off the floor (such as Simmons being used more as a roll man). Nevertheless, it's still possible for Simmons to continue thriving with some of the improvements and aggressiveness he’s shown lately. The bigger issue is how Al Horford and Embiid can fit together offensively.

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