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Seth Curry out for Sixers’ game at Houston with ankle soreness

Curry’s absence is another blow to the Sixers’ backcourt, which is already without starting point guard Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols) and backup Shake Milton (back contusion).

Sixers guard Seth Curry  during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
Sixers guard Seth Curry during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

HOUSTON — Starting guard Seth Curry was ruled out for the 76ers’ game against the Houston Rockets on Monday night because of left ankle soreness, a team official said.

Curry was a late addition to the injury report, after being listed as questionable Monday afternoon. He tweaked the ankle during Friday’s win against San Antonio but stayed in the game, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.

» READ MORE: How Doc Rivers, other NBA coaches collaborate from afar while in COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Curry’s absence is another blow to the Sixers’ backcourt, which is already without starting point guard Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols) and backup Shake Milton (back contusion). That will likely put the ball in the hands of Furkan Korkmaz, who has shouldered that responsibility more in recent games with Maxey and Milton out. Coach Doc Rivers said forward Tobias Harris would also initiate the offense at times.

“I’m trying to make the call,” Korkmaz said following Sunday’s practice. “Doc is giving me that freedom to, when I see Joel, [Embiid, I call one] set. When I see Tobias, I call different sets. I think I play like a more point guard right now, instead of just the guy who’s trying to bring the ball down.”

Reserve guard Isaiah Joe, who missed Friday’s win against the Spurs with back pain, was set to return Monday.

Curry, an eighth-year NBA player, is in the midst of a career season, averaging 16.3 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4% from the floor and 41.1% from three-point range. Houston coach Stephen Silas was not surprised by the way Curry has expanded his offensive game with the Sixers.

Silas first met Curry more than a decade ago, when he was an assistant with Golden State and Stephen Curry asked if his younger brother could tag along for a workout in Charlotte. Silas was so impressed by Seth Curry’s ability to creatively score in the midrange and on fadeaway jumpers — in addition to drilling three-pointers — that he went home and called his father, legendary coach Paul Silas.

“I was like, ‘Steph’s brother is really good,’” Silas recalled ahead of Monday’s game.

Silas and Curry later worked together with the Dallas Mavericks, where Silas was an assistant coach and Curry played during the 2016-17 and 2019-20 seasons after carving out his NBA path through the developmental league.

“He’s just super confident,” Silas said of Curry. “He is trustworthy with the basketball or without. He can make a bunch of different types of shots, whether it’s catch-and-shoot threes, whether it’s off-the-dribble threes, whether it’s midrange.

“The way we had him playing in Dallas, he was more of a three-point-type shooter and he was obviously toward the top of the league. [The Sixers have] allowed him and opened his game up as far as shooting midrange. … He’s one of the best in the league at it. He’s just continued to improve.”

Sixers adapting to schedule tweak

The Sixers were supposed to be in the middle of a rare four-day stretch at home between Friday’s win against San Antonio and Wednesday’s matchup against Charlotte.

Instead, they departed Sunday for an unconventional one-game road trip to Houston for a matchup originally slated for Jan. 24.

The move was part of the rescheduling process for a Dec. 19 home game against New Orleans that was postponed because the Sixers had too many players in health and safety protocols or injured. That game against the Pelicans is now scheduled for Jan. 25, two days after the Sixers play at San Antonio.

“Obviously, we would have rather had the four days,” Rivers said. “But right now, listen, we’re just happy we’re playing basketball games, so we’ll do it.”

Such is life in an NBA still impacted by the pandemic, which has forced players and staffers to be ready to adjust on the fly. Rivers said it’s not drastically different than a normal season as a coach.

“You have injuries during the year, you have trades midseason, and you have all kinds of stuff,” Rivers said. “I’ve been on teams that traded like five guys at the trade deadline, so you just have to be adaptable to it.”

After the omicron variant began tearing through the league’s teams, new policies were quickly introduced to keep the games moving. To maintain 13 active players, teams can sign additional players to 10-day hardship contracts. Veteran guard Tyler Johnson was on such a deal with the Sixers late last month, while G League call-ups Charlie Brown and Braxton Key are currently with the team.

The Sixers are not the only team dealing with scheduling quirks following game postponements. Monday’s Sixers-Rockets game created an additional back-to-back for Houston, which lost Sunday night to Minnesota. The Brooklyn Nets, meanwhile, played the Spurs at home Sunday and then flew across the country to play Portland on the second night of a back-to-back set.

Rivers battling fatigue post-COVID

Rivers has been back from health and safety protocols for less than a week. The primary aftereffect he continues to feel: fatigue.

Other than resting, Rivers said the Sixers’ medical staff “gave me 1,000 vitamins” to provide an energy jolt.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m taking,” Rivers said. “I’ll probably be flying by tomorrow. I don’t know what they’re giving me, but they said they’re good for me, so I take it.”