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Sixers Notebook: Joel Embiid’s ‘questionable’ status remains a daily mystery

PHILADELPHIA — About 49 hours, one shootaround and no reported catastrophes after he dumped 47 points on the two-time sitting MVP of the NBA, Joel Embiid was back in a familiar situation Monday.

Maybe he would play against the Orlando Magic, or maybe he wouldn’t.

Same situation as the last game?

“Same,” Doc Rivers said.

And so it has gone for at least the first three games of the current Sixers’ homestand, and likely will continue through the fourth and beyond. So rote has the pre-game theater become that the head coach doesn’t even need to hear a full question before making his nightly hedge. A week ago, Rivers was so numb to the topic that he essentially promised to keep responding to the same question with the same non-answer.

Is it just Rivers trying to complicate the pre-game tasks of opposing coaches? Does he receive that much of an edge maintaining a mystery at 5:15 but not at 6:30? Is Embiid’s left foot so sore that it requires 24-7 attention? Or worse yet, is he at such a risk of more serious injury that no trainer can approve his participation until after those intense pre-game layup lines?

“No, we just have to monitor him,” Rivers said. “He has had some foot ailments that we want to make sure he stays upright.”

Whatever the Sixers are doing with Embiid, it has been working, as he had sandwiched scoring nights of 41, 32, 26 and 47 around a recent night off in Sacramento. Yet he continues to be listed as “questionable” almost to the point of the introduction of the starting lineups. Embiid did start in a 119-109 loss Monday with the familiar cast of Tobias Harris, James Harden, P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton. Embiid tabbed 30 points and 11 rebounds, but he was a little less than himself, committing six turnovers and playing to a minus-11.

“Listen, as well as we’re playing, we want to be healthy in the playoffs,” Rivers said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to be healthy in the playoffs.”

That has been the situation around the Wells Fargo Center since Embiid took two redshirt years after arriving in the 2014 draft. That was followed by years of heavy-handed load management that Embiid eventually described as “bull.” But the reason his minutes regularly were limited then was so that when he hit his career peak, there would be no issues. Those limits have been lifted. The act, though, remains.

“At the end of the day, you just have to prepare both sides of it,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “You have a game plan in order if he plays. If he doesn’t play, you have another game plan in order. But it ultimately boils down to how we play.”

• • •

The Sixers had a seven-game winning streak snuffed.

“I thought they played harder, faster, tougher, more physical,” Rivers said. “I thought they deserved to win the game.”

Orlando will remain in town and go for the two-game sweep Wednesday night at 7.

“Even if you have the best players in the NBA, you are going to lose at some point,” Embiid said. “We just have to stay together. We’ve got to be better and we know what we’re going to do.”

• • •

Nearly four years after he was traded to the Magic, former Sixer Markelle Fultz played a game in the Wells Fargo Center.

Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, appeared in just 33 games with the Sixers over two seasons, complained of a rare shoulder ailment and eventually was moved to the Magic in a package that included the draft pick that eventually was used to acquire Tyrese Maxey.

More injuries limited his participation in 2021 and 2022 to a total of 26 games. He had played 29 games this season, averaging 12.1 points.

“We talked a little about it before the game,” Mosley said. “But some of the people who were here the first time he was here are no longer here. That’s one side of it. The other side is, just brace it and enjoy it. They’ve got a great fan base. I know there is love for him here. I think at the end of the day, just embrace being back on the court where you first started.”

Fultz, 24, played a nice, comfortable game at the point Monday, scoring 12 points, but only shooting 4-for-14.

“There are so many aspects of Markelle’s game that obviously have not been seen in some time,” Mosley said. “But his poise, his court demeanor, his ability to calm the game down as it goes on and get people in the right position is there. He is playing with a level of confidence and joy about the game that you love to see.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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