The Philadelphia 76ers are in Brooklyn Sunday for a 3:00 p.m. tip-off. The best news of all is that Joel Embiid and Nico Batum are not on the latest injury report the team released Saturday evening.
Batum has missed four games since he was traded to the team from L.A. for “personal reasons.” But he’s not on the latest injury report so that’s at least an indication he may be nearing a return - perhaps, as early as Sunday.
Fun fact: Batum, a native of Lisieux, France, has sneakily been able to wear the French flag colors (white, red, and blue) on each of his last two teams, the Clippers and Sixers. Wonder if he’s ever enjoyed that fact....
As for Joel Embiid, we first learned he was battling some hip soreness following the team’s 132-126 loss to Tyrese Haliburton and Obi Toppin’s Indiana Pacers. He has yet to miss a ballgame this season despite flirting with an absence or two. But it seems as if that issue has improved since the reigning MVP now enjoys no injury designation.
Only Kelly Oubre Jr. is listed as “OUT,” for Philadelphia, while the hot-shooting newcomer recovers from the fractured rib he suffered in a recent accident away from the hardwood.
On Brooklyn’s side, Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas are out. Simmons is listed with a hip ailment but it appears the former Sixer will miss additional time while he battles “nerve irritation in his hip and lower left side,” Brian Lewis of the New York Post recently reported.
Thomas will miss a couple of weeks while dealing with an ankle injury. That leaves Dennis Smith Jr. as the remaining member of Jacques Vaughn’s squad on the injury report for the Atlantic Division rival. DSj has actually morphed himself into a terrific perimeter defender over the last couple of seasons but is dealing with back soreness so he may miss the next game too. It should upgrade Tyrese Maxey’s outlook if he’s limited or out.
The 76ers are in second place in the East and find themselves in a three-way tie with the Nuggets and Mavericks for the second-best record in the entire NBA. The Celtics have the best record overall, having won a game in Philly last week despite missing Kristaps Porzingis and Jaylen Brown.
Mikal Bridges is the headliner for Brooklyn. And it was Cam Thomas whose legs tangled around Joel Embiid’s after the latter jumped for a block in Game 3 of the playoffs last season. That was the play Embiid sprained his LCL in his right knee, something that would annoyingly plague the superstar during the team’s second-round loss to the rival Celtics.
It’ll be the first time Embiid has faced Vaughn’s team since they adopted the foul him a lot, send him to the wood, and taunt him” strategy, accompanied by some obligatory MMA metaphors from Vaughn last spring. Embiid may be looking for a bit of revenge. If I were him, I’d certainly have marked the Nets on my calendar.
During the playoffs last year, Nets beat reporter for ClutchPoints Erik Slater asked Jacque Vaughn about defensive rebounding vs. the Sixers. Here was his reply last April, via HoopsHype:
“Man, you cannot be tired at this time of the year. That is like an underlined excuse right there, That is underlined. No excuses. You step into the octagon and you’re not ready, you get knocked out. That’s what happens. You gotta be ready bro.”
And just a couple minutes into that Game 3, it was pretty clear the Nets got the memo since they started really hammering Embiid’s back when he’d try to rebound. Nic Claxton was the culprit on more than a few chippy occasions. That makes tomorrow’s game some must see TV.
This is especially good news since the Eagles battle the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in a SuperBowl rematch. That hopefully clears your schedule for tomorrow.
The Sixers are 4-0 when Batum suits up and 5-3 when he’s not in their lineup.