James Ennis III has been ruled out for Friday’s Sixers game against the Houston Rockets due to a stomach illness, according to Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
James Ennis Is OUT tonight with a stomach illness. #Sixers— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 3, 2020
This could prove to be a significant loss for the Sixers. They are already down a perimeter player in Matisse Thybulle, who hasn’t played since December 21st due to injury, while going against a team that heavily favors a perimeter-based offensive attack. That said, it’s no shock to the Sixers that Ennis can’t go. News broke yesterday evening that Ennis was doubtful to play against the Rockets, which precipitated Zhaire Smith’s call up from the Delaware Blue Coats. Brett Brown and his staff likely anticipated this development and game-planned for it.
Could Ennis’ absence produce Zhaire Smith’s first NBA appearance of the 2019-20 season tonight? Unfortunately, not necessarily (though I think we’d all like to see that). The Sixers could go with a point guard-heavy rotation, involving both Trey Burke and Raul Neto in the 2nd unit. Brett Brown may even ask Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson to take more than their typical dosage of minutes. Recall that Smith has been active before this season without getting off the bench.
However Brown manages a thin wing rotation, tonight’s match up is likely to be a challenge for the Sixers. The Rockets are 23-11 on the season (4th in the Western Conference) and 7-3 in their last 10. It would be quite a statement win for the Sixers to pull out a shorthanded victory (against a contender) in response to their recent slide and various internal acknowledgements that the team has played with a frustrating lack of effort and execution.