COVID-19, injuries leave 76ers set to play with 7 players

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia 76ers are set to play Saturday without All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and will have the NBA minimum eight players active as the team deals with injuries and COVID-19 concerns.

Sixers guard Seth Curry learned of a positive COVID-19 test while the team played Thursday in Brooklyn, forcing the team to spend an extra day in New York for additional testing.

Coach Doc Rivers said before the game against Denver the Sixers will have seven players available and that injured forward Mike Scott will be active but not play.

Rivers expressed concern the Sixers were even playing a game so short-handed and he worried about "our players' health on the floor."

The players available are: Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Tyrese Maxey, Tony Bradley, Isaiah Joe, Dakota Mathias and Paul Reed.

Embiid, Simmons, Curry and Tobias Harris are the missing starters in the lineup. Rivers said Simmons has a left knee injury and Embiid is nursing a sore back.

"Ben in the Brooklyn game had some knee stiffness," Rivers said. "So we almost probably knew after the game that he wouldn't play tonight. And then Joel started complaining about his back, that started yesterday. And we didn't know if he was playing or not but honestly, with the minutes we would have to ask, it would be insane to play him tonight."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he needs to make sure his team would not "relax" against an opponent without its best players.

The team returned to Philadelphia early Saturday morning as they awaited the NBA's ruling on the submission of a contact-tracing report of several players who shared close proximity to Curry, sources told 6abc and ESPN.

The Sixers' list of seven players placed in the health and safety protocol based on close recent contact to Curry -- who tested positive for the coronavirus -- could have left them short of the league-mandated eight players required to start Saturday's 3 p.m. game against the Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers also had one staff member test positive Friday, according to an ESPN source.

The team had been quarantined in New York after Curry tested positive for COVID-19 early in the Sixers' loss to the Nets on Thursday night in New York. Curry was hustled off the floor and into isolation, sources said.

Sources told 6abc, the Sixers unexpectedly spent Thursday night in a lower Manhattan hotel after facing Brooklyn instead of boarding their charter flight home, as a precaution to isolate and contain any potential outbreak when they learned of Curry's positive test.

Sources said the Sixers made this decision in the best interest of the health and safety of their players, staff and families back home.

They then boarded a series of separate buses at around 11 p.m. Friday for the drive back to Philadelphia, sources said.

The team had two tests Friday morning, a rapid COVID-19 test and the PCR test.

Curry, who did not play against the Nets due to a sore ankle, was on the bench in the first quarter before being removed and placed in isolation when the team found out about his test. Curry sat next to Joel Embiid and slapped hands with Ben Simmons, before being removed and placed in isolation.

Seven players were placed in the NBA health and safety protocol because they had close, recent contact to Curry, and that includes star player Joel Embiid.

The Sixers awaited the league's evaluation of the circumstances surrounding those seven players' individual cases to discover if it is possible that at least two of them could be cleared on Saturday to spare a postponement. The NBA's contact-tracing guidelines could determine different clearances for different players, including isolation periods anywhere from zero to seven days.

While Curry's rapid test Thursday was negative, his PCR test, which is more accurate, came back positive.

Curry had a confirmatory test Friday to help determine the accuracy.

Curry did play Wednesday against Washington. No other players on any of the three teams have any known positive cases at this time.

Per NBA protocol, Curry will miss at least 12 days with his positive test. Any player who has tested positive for COVID-19 cannot exercise for at least 10 days and then must undergo evaluated individual workouts for another two days before re-joining the team.

Along with Embiid, Green and Reed, the Sixers are down to six other available players: All-Star forward Ben Simmons, centers Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley, rookie guards Tyrese Maxey and Isaiah Joe and guard Dakota Mathias.

The Nuggets arrived in Philadelphia late Friday afternoon. Sources tell 6abc the Nuggets expect to play unless they hear something differently from the NBA. They were without talented young forward Michael Porter Jr., who continues to be sidelined under health and safety protocols for an indefinite period of time, sources said. Porter, 22, has been in the protocol since last Thursday as a result of contract tracing.

The Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder had an opening night game postponed when the Rockets had only seven eligible players.


The Associated Press, 6abc's Jeff Skversky and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.
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