Nurse gives updates on Embiid, Sixers' injuries as focus shifts to Heat


Nurse gives updates on Embiid, Sixers’ injuries as focus shifts to Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The hottest team in the NBA will play the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Despite their league-best eight-game winning streak to finish the regular season, the Sixers find themselves in the play-in tournament.

Not for the first time, Joel Embiid’s health is a storyline that demands attention.

Embiid, who returned from a left lateral meniscus injury on April 2, missed the Sixers’ victory Sunday over the Nets. In a worrisome scene Friday vs. the Magic, he limped up the court after a driving layup and asked out of the game.

The reigning MVP came back for the second half against Orlando and had no further obvious issues. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse did not frame Embiid’s availability for the play-in tournament as remotely up in the air.

“Listen, he did everything at practice yesterday,” Nurse said. “We just decided, out of caution, to hold him. He’ll be ready to go.”

Nurse’s comments on De’Anthony Melton were far less optimistic.

The combo guard’s second season with the Sixers has been derailed by a recurring lumbar spine injury. He said Tuesday that it caused “a pinch in my back” and at one point disrupted his everyday life.

Melton managed to make two late-season appearances, but he sat for the finale.

“I’ve always had concern with him,” Nurse said. “I think it’s a tough deal. It’s kind of the second time we’ve gone through holding him out, trying to treat him, getting him to a place where he thinks he can play. He played a couple games, then he went out again for a long stretch. We bring him back, he plays one game, and then he’s out again. I just think it’s very difficult.

“I think we’re in the same situation. They’re going to continue to treat him, try to get him better. We’re hoping for a long run here, so there’s still always time as this goes to get him back and have him be a factor in this thing. But it is concerning.”

None of that suggests Melton will be on the floor vs. the Heat.

“I don’t want to say either way,” Nurse said, “but I would imagine two things: 1. He has probably a bit of a journey to get there for Wednesday. Some things have got to go well. And 2. He hasn’t played much. So it’s not time to be working guys back into the fold, right? But as a series goes on — if we’re fortunate enough to get into one — and as time goes on, you never know.”

The two other Sixers out against the Nets were KJ Martin (left great toe contusion) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).

Though Covington has trended up here and there in his rehab, sustained on-court workouts have been too troublesome for the 33-year-old’s left knee. Covington has been sidelined since Dec. 30.

Is there any chance of him returning in the playoffs?

“No,” Nurse said. “I don’t think so. He just hasn’t made enough progress. We did get him on the court a couple times last week. He just hasn’t made enough progress in being able to move well enough without pain.”

As long as Embiid’s in and playing somewhere around his usual level, the Sixers tend to believe they can beat anyone.

He’s suited up 39 times this season and the Sixers have won 31 of those games. Tyrese Maxey was phenomenal in Embiid’s lone outing against the Heat, posting 37 points and 11 assists on April 4 to lead the Sixers to a narrow victory at Kaysea Center.

“We were kind of in control of our own destiny,” Maxey said. “We had to win games before. That’s kind of the position that we put ourselves in. That’s OK. I keep saying that for us, our main goal was to be stepping in the right direction come playoff time. I think we’re doing that.”

The Sixers’ short-term focus is on staying hot, extending their streak to nine, and setting up a first-round playoff meeting with the second-seeded Knicks.

“I think at the end of this year, the momentum we’ve had getting Joel back and everybody finding the balance on the court as well is a very positive sign for us,” Tobias Harris said. “And I think everyone in the locker room can say we’re a very confident group right now.

“We’re ready and we’re excited to get going. I think the confidence and the morale and spirit of the team is in a very good spot. And we’ve got to go out and show it.”



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