Good morning 76ers fans. The team is now going through is second time dealing with contract tracing for the coronavirus, which caused the postponement of Sunday’s game against the host Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Sixers are scheduled to return to action Wednesday when they host the Boston Celtics. For now, the game is still on. Stay tuned.

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— Marc Narducci (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Challenges the Sixers and NBA have dealing with the pandemic

The NBA right now is trying to weather the COVID-19 storm. The Sixers once again are dealing with a large number of players in contact tracing.

The Sixers lost, 115-103, to Denver when they dressed the mandatory eight players due to health and safety protocols and injury. In that game, the Sixers had only seven available players because coach Doc Rivers said before the game he wasn’t playing Mike Scott since he wasn’t ready to compete due to a knee injury.

The Sixers then had nine available players in their next game, a 112-94 loss in Atlanta. They had 10 available players for a 137-134 overtime win over a Miami Heat team that had the minimum eight players.

As for the current situation, a team source told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey that the Sixers didn’t have any additional positive tests as of Sunday night. The contact tracing came because of Memphis, which beat the Sixers, 106-104, on Saturday.

On Sunday, Memphis announced that center Jonas Valančiūnas was out for the scheduled game Monday with Phoenix due to health and safety protocols. He was the only Grizzlies player listed out for that reason.

With so many teams missing players, the product has in many instances been watered down.

Through Sunday night, here are the games that have been postponed this season due to COVID-19.

  • Dec. 23: Oklahoma City at Houston (Rockets without enough players).

  • Jan. 10: Miami at Boston (Heat without enough players).

  • Jan. 11: New Orleans at Dallas (Mavericks without enough players).

  • Jan. 12: Boston at Chicago (Celtics without enough players).

  • Jan. 13: Orlando at Boston (Celtics without enough players).

  • Jan. 13: Utah at Washington (Wizards without enough players).

  • Jan. 13: Atlanta at Phoenix (Suns without enough players).

  • Jan. 15: Washington at Detroit (Wizards without enough players).

  • Jan 15: Golden State at Phoenix (Suns without enough players).

  • Jan. 15: Memphis at Minnesota (Timberwolves without enough players).

  • Jan. 16: Indiana at Phoenix (Suns without enough players).

  • Jan. 17: Cleveland at Washington (Wizards without enough players).

  • Jan. 17: Sixers at Oklahoma City (Sixers without enough players).

The Sixers now have what constitutes as a major break in this compact schedule. Even if they had played Sunday, the Sixers still have scheduled days off on Monday and Tuesday. That is the first time since the opening week of the season that they had two scheduled days off in a row.

The Sixers opened the season with a 113-107 home win over Washington on Dec. 23. They then had Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 off, the first and only time until this week that they had two straight days off.

Whether they will have more days off remains to be seen.

Starting five

Keith Pompey writes that the Sixers are benefiting from Joel Embiid’s leadership.

With Embiid out against Memphis, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris weren’t able to make up for his absence.

Pompey reports that after missing 11 games with a groin injury, Furkan Korkmaz has returned.

One of the questions that Pompey answers in his latest Sixers mailbag is: Did the Houston Rockets use the Sixers to secure the Brooklyn Nets’ best deal for James Harden?

Ben Simmons insists on controlling only what he can control after the Sixers dangled his name in a potential Harden trade

Kemba returns

When the Boston Celtics visit the Sixers on Wednesday, expect Kemba Walker to be in the lineup. Walker made his first appearance of the season in Sunday’s 105-75 home loss to the New York Knicks. He had been sidelined with a left knee injury.

“I felt really good, really comfortable making my moves, pain free, which I haven’t been for a very very long time. It almost feels felt weird actually not having pain if that makes sense,” Walker said in a Zoom postgame interview. “It is kind of a weird feeling. I have been hurt for a very long time and very happy to get out there, super excited. It was fun, I can’t wait to get back out there.”

While he enjoyed being out there, both Walker and the Celtics had a poor showing. Walker shot just 3 of 13 from the field, including 1 of 7 from three-point range.

The Celtics (8-4) played their second game without Jayson Tatum, out due to health and safety protocols. Boston, which has had three games postponed due to health and safety protocols, is idle until visiting the Sixers on Wednesday and then again on Friday.

Important dates

Wednesday: Boston Celtics at Sixers, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Friday: Boston Celtics at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, ESPN/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday: Sixers at Detroit Pistons, 7 p.m., Little Caesars Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus

Jan. 25: Sixers at Detroit Pistons, 7 p.m., Little Caesars Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jan.. 27: Los Angeles Lakers at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, ESPN

Passing the rock

Question: Why is Christian Wood killing it in Houston now, but he was an afterthought with the Sixers? Glenn Thompson, @Thrower60 on Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the question, Glenn. Wood went from Detroit to Houston in a sign-and-trade and earned a three-year, $41 million deal. With the way he is producing, it’s been a great deal for the Rockets. Wood is averaging 23.2 points and 10.9 rebounds. The problem with him coming to the Sixers is Wood is a power forward-center, where the Sixers have Tobias Harris, who is in the second season of a five-year, $180 million deal, and Joel Embiid, who is their best player. So while Wood is averaging 33.8 minutes with Houston, he wouldn’t get that type of playing time with the Sixers. Plus the Sixers looked to shed salary in the offseason, not add to it.