The 1-1 Philadelphia 76ers travel to Oklahoma City to take on the winless Thunder. The Sixers opened the year with a road win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Then they dropped the home opener to the Brooklyn Nets in heartbreaking fashion. The Sixers were, of course, without Ben Simmons in each of those contests. The former top pick from 2016, who would like to be traded, got himself ejected from practice ahead of the Pelicans game. Friday it was reported that he told the team he is not mentally ready to play at this time, ahead of the Nets game. The team has suggested that this was an important step in the right direction towards resolving this situation, which has dragged on all summer. But there is no timetable in sight for Simmons return to play at this time.
Without Simmons the Sixers did not have much trouble against the Pelicans, winning the season opener 117-97. But against the odds on title favorite Nets featuring Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Sixers squandered a double-digit lead with just 5:32 remaining, falling 114-109. KD dropped 29 points, 15 boards and 12 dimes on Philadelphia for his first triple-double of the year.
Joel Embiid sustained a knee injury in the opener when he banged knees with a member of the Pelicans. That issue didn’t slow him down in the first game. And it did not cost him the chance to play against the Nets, however coach Doc Rivers did say his “mobility” was limited, per our Paul Hudrick. Embiid dropped 19 points on Brooklyn, matched up against a combination of Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton and LaMarcus Aldridge (who exploded for 23 points in 23 minutes) but wasn’t quite his usual dominant self shooting just 6-15 from the field.
And now the Sixers may be further short-handed.
#Sixers reserve center Andre Drummond is doubtful for tomorrow’s game at the #OKCThunder with a right ankle sprain. Starting center Joel Embiid is questionable with right knee soreness. Shake Milton (ankle), Grant Riller (knee) and Ben Simmons (personal reasons) are out.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) October 23, 2021
With Embiid nursing that sore knee, it would have been quite the luxury to lean on new addition Andre Drummond Sunday. The veteran big has provided a spark off the bench in both contests so far, cleaning the glass, playing tough defense and making some pretty passes to teammates.
The Andre Drummond experience has been something else, man. pic.twitter.com/MmczBVbtUm— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) October 23, 2021
If Big Penguin Drummond can’t go with an ankle sprain, then Embiid will have to play more than the team would like him to, while nursing his own issue. If neither game-time decision big men can suit up, then the Sixers may have a big void at center. In that scenario, perhaps we’d see more Paul Reed or even 2021 second round pick Charles Bassey.
The good news is that the Thunder are not exactly the Brooklyn Nets. Their GM Sam Presti has established a long-term strategy prioritizing draft picks (sound familiar?) As such his team is very young and inexperienced.
2018 lottery pick, acquired in the Paul George blockbuster with the Clippers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is their headline guard. He played for Rivers for a time in L.A. And the Sixers will have their hands full keeping SGA out of the paint. He’s very shifty and unpredictable. Luguentz Dort is already a premier wing defender in the NBA and may limit Seth Curry’s looks.
It will be intriguing to see if Tyrese Maxey continues his impressive play. The second year guard comes in averaging 17.5 points, 3.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds through two games. He’s filled in admirably for Simmons. It won’t be a surprise if Rivers leans on the Kentucky product again, especially since Shake Milton is still unavailable.
For now, we’ll wait to see just how short-handed the Sixers will be. If Embiid plays, things will probably go according to plan. If not, this could be a wacky one where the Sixers are without any traditional centers or traditional point guards.
When: 7:00 pm ET, October 224, 2021
Where: Paycom Center, Downtown OKC
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic