Last week was a microcosm for Sixers fans in the Joel Embiid era.
On Monday, the reigning MVP dropped a career-high and franchise record 70 points in a win over Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs. The team followed that up by laying an egg in Indiana against the Pacers Thursday before Embiid was a (very) late scratch against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets Saturday.
And the beat goes on with the Sixers off to an 0-2 start to a five-game road trip and three games on the West Coast looming. Embiid is also out for Monday’s game against Portland.
But Monday is a busy night for a couple of former friends. There was also a pair of big injury updates involving East playoff teams. Let’s take a look around the NBA.
Didn’t you all miss seeing Doc Rivers on the sidelines?
On Monday, Rivers will make his debut with the Bucks as Milwaukee takes on Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver. The former Sixers head coach takes over for Adrian Griffin who was fired by the organization last week.
Rivers’ break from coaching didn’t last long. While he interviewed for jobs after being let go by the Sixers over the summer, Doc instead took the job on ESPN’s top broadcast team alongside Mike Breen and Doris Burke. Here’s what’s crazy: Doc will have now coached in every NBA season since Y2K. He started with the Orlando Magic in 1999-00, followed by his stints with the Bostons Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers.
If you missed Rivers’ introductory presser, here are a couple highlights:
A golf reference, of course.
Why he decided to come back. Asked by @eric_nehm.— Pablo Iglesias (@PabloIglesiasTV) January 27, 2024
“I’m a coach.”
If he weren’t here, he’d be “on the third hole” at the Riviera or Bel-Air
And this, the most memeable quote of the year.
Doc Rivers, on taking over midseason: "I've never done this. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. It's going to be a challenge."— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 27, 2024
Doc gonna Doc.
There wasn’t anything brought up about his time in Philly and what went wrong. Expect those questions to come up when Doc is back in town on Feb. 25. He will surely be greeted warmly.
Simmons returns to Nets lineup
Ben Simmons is expected to play for the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Utah Jazz Monday. It will mark the first time Simmons has played since Nov. 8. The former Sixer has played in just six games overall this season.
Over the last three seasons combined, Simmons has played in a total of 48 games. He infamously held out for much of the 2021-22 season while demanding a trade from the Sixers. Since joining the Nets in the James Harden blockbuster, Simmons has dealt with multiple back injuries, including undergoing a microdiscectomy for a herniated disk. His most recent issue was a pinched nerve.
A three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive Team pick and one time All-NBA selection, time will tell if Simmons, now 27, can ever get back to the level of health and play that allowed him to have success as Sixer.
Knicks breathe a sigh of relief; Haliburton set to return
If you were watching the Knicks dismantle the Heat ahead of the Sixers-Nuggets matchup, you likely saw New York forward Julius Randle take an awkward fall late in the game. The two-time All-Star suffered a dislocated shoulder after being fouled on a layup attempt by rookie Jaime Jaquez, Jr. Randle went directly to the locker room, seemingly in a lot of pain.
Knicks fans can exhale after finding out the extent of the injury isn’t as serious as it perhaps looked.
As testing continues on Knicks All-Star F Julius Randle’s right shoulder, indications are optimistic that his absence will be measured in weeks and not months, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 29, 2024
Since the trade that landed them OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks have been the hottest team in the NBA. They’re nipping at the Sixers’ heels for the three seed in the East. While they’ll feel the loss of Randle, it appears they’ll get him back in plenty of team to get ready for the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers also received positive injury news as All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton is set to make his return to the lineup Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.
ESPN Sources: There’s optimism Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton will return to the lineup vs. the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. Haliburton — who was selected a starter in the All-Star Game — has missed 10 of the past 11 games with a hamstring injury. pic.twitter.com/cuYeIxMkZT— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 29, 2024
Hailburton suffered what looked like a gruesome hamstring injury back on Jan. 8 against the Celtics. He was in obvious pain and had to be carried off the floor. He did come back for one game on Jan. 19, but then missed the next five.
The new-look Pacers, now featuring All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, will also make the East even more competitive with Haliburton’s return.