Joel Embiid is the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January, the league announced Wednesday afternoon.
It’s the second consecutive month the 76ers’ big man has won the honor, a sign of the recent dominant play that has made him an MVP contender. Embiid is the first player in franchise history to win the award two months in a row, and joins Allen Iverson as the only Sixer to earn the honor at least four times in their career.
In 14 January games, Embiid led all NBA players by averaging 34 points on 54.2% shooting, and also averaged 10.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Against Orlando on Jan. 21, he tied his career high with 50 points in just 27 minutes. He also recorded his third-career triple-double when he totaled 31 points, 15 rebounds, and a season-high 10 assists during a Jan. 3 win against Houston.
The Sixers went 11-3 in January to climb the tightly packed Eastern Conference standings. They enter Wednesday’s game against Washington one game out of first place and with a 31-19 record.
“It just all is connected to team and team wins,” coach Doc Rivers said of the recent honors for Embiid and point guard Tyrese Maxey, who on Tuesday night was named to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend. “When you win games and you play well, you get noticed, and I think that’s what’s happening with our guys.”
Last week, Embiid was named an All-Star starter, marking his fifth consecutive appearance at the midseason showcase of the league’s best players.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, was named the Western Conference Player of the Month.
Seth Curry out for Wednesday’s game vs. Washington with back spasms
Sixers’ starting shooting guard Seth Curry was a late scratch for Wednesday’s game against Washington because of back spasms.
It is the second health issue Curry has dealt with in recent weeks. He missed four games with ankle soreness from Jan. 21-27, then returned for two games during which he shot 7-of-25 from the floor and 3-of-15 from three-point range.
Curry is in the midst of a career season, averaging 15.5 points per game on 49.7% shooting and 40.3% from three-point range to go along with 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Reserve swingman Furkan Korkmaz (knee soreness) and backup point guard Shake Milton (back contusion) are also out for Wednesday’s game. Perimeter options against the Wizards include Isaiah Joe, who has gotten more rotation minutes in the past two games, and Charlie Brown Jr.
Assistant Dave Joerger returns following cancer treatment
Assistant coach Dave Joerger has returned to the team on a full-time basis after stepping away in mid-November to undergo cancer treatment in his head and neck, the team announced.
Joerger will be on the bench for the Sixers’ game against Washington. He finished his treatment at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in mid-December and will continue his recovery upon rejoining the Sixers’ staff, according to a news release.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to be back around this basketball team,” Joerger said in a statement. “The last several months have been some of the most challenging of my life, but I am so lucky to have the support of Josh Harris, David Blitzer, Doc Rivers, Daryl Morey, Elton Brand, and the entire 76ers organization. Their support, along with my wife Kimberly, and my loving family, has been unwavering.
“Lastly, I may not be here today if it weren’t for the incredible medical team at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. For now, I’m energized by the trajectory of this 76ers team and am looking forward to helping our group reach the ultimate goal of an NBA championship.”
Rivers said Joerger has “gone through a lot — far more than anyone knows.” There were periods of time when Joerger was unable to speak, and would communicate with Rivers by email. But he joined the Sixers on the floor for Monday’s shootartound ahead of their win against Memphis, much to the surprise of his players.
“The fact that he’s coaching this year is a miracle,” Rivers said. “I said four [or six] weeks ago there was no way he was gonna be coaching this year. ... He walks out on the floor, unassuming like Dave is, and guys are like, ‘That’s Dave Joerger!’ It was really cool watching the players’ reaction to it.”