The Philadelphia 76ers have dealt with a host of injuries and absences from health and safety protocols since Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 on January 7. Their latest game — a road contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday — was even postponed as they didn’t have enough available players due to ongoing contact tracing following their game against Memphis the night before.
Well, fortunately for the Sixers, they’re once again approaching full strength. The only players left on the latest NBA injury report are Vincent Poirier (health and safety protocols) and Mike Scott (right knee swelling). Seth Curry is cleared to play again.
When head coach Doc Rivers provided an update on Curry last week on January 11, he said Curry only had one bad day since testing positive for COVID and was feeling great. Thankfully Curry hasn’t been badly affected, and once he’s back in a rhythm and returns to his typical conditioning level, he should be able to pick up right where he left off.
Before Curry was sidelined, he’d been having a phenomenal start to the season. He was doing all the Sixers could ask for — burying three-pointers at an elite rate as usual, helping as a secondary ball-handler and pick-and-roll player, adding a touch of scoring off the bounce, and developing an effective two-man game with Joel Embiid.
Put all that together with stellar efficiency, and Curry is currently averaging career-highs in points (17) and assists (3.6) per game, with an absurd league-best True Shooting Percentage of 79.6 and a 59.5 percent mark from three.
There haven’t been many opportunities for the Sixers to practice this season, given the condensed schedule and the team having so many players out with injuries or health and safety protocols. The Sixers were able to hold a practice on Tuesday, though (Curry was unable to take part), and Rivers said that they used the opportunity to go over a lot, working on different plays and lineups.
“We had a day today which was important, we worked on a lot of stuff, probably too much, being honest,” Rivers said after practice. “But we had to, in my opinion, we had no choice... you’re almost in the let’s-try-to-win-a-game mode right now. And that’s really not where you should be at in this part of the season, you should be working-on-your-execution-and-getting-better mode, and I think most teams are more in the thing I said first. Let’s figure it out, see what we can do, and then keep working when we have time.”
Matisse Thybulle reiterated how busy the schedule has been this season, and the benefit of being able to get in a practice with most of the team.
“It’s kind of crazy just how packed our schedule is,” Thybulle said. “There’s no room for practices unless you’re gonna take away off days, and I feel like it’s a hard thing for coach and them to have to grapple with is like, ‘do we give them rest because they’re about to play four games in seven days, or do we [practice]?’ And I think today was a really good opportunity to get out there and honestly just get better, get some feel for each other and start tightening up some things.”
There’s no doubt Curry’s shooting, ball handling and the space he provides will give the Sixers an immediate boost when he returns. They’re back in Philly now for a mini two-game series against the Boston Celtics, with games on Wednesday and Friday.
Rivers also said at practice that he expects Joel Embiid to play on Wednesday, after the big man sat out the last game against the Grizzlies with soreness in his right knee.