One can argue that the 76ers failed miserably in their quest to be innovators in athlete care.
For every mention of load management and sports science, one can point to the multiple injuries and ailments that still occurred while the team was supposedly on the cutting edge of being careful.
Now, the team is parting ways with the heads of their athlete-care department.
The team did not renew the contracts of Dr. Daniel Medina, vice president of athlete care, and Dr. David T. Martin, director of sports performance and research. Their tenure is expected to expire at the end of the month.
The two were hired to be innovators in sports science and prevent injuries. However, the Sixers have had an abundance of injuries the past several seasons. Eighteen different players this season alone missed at least one game because of an injury or ailment. That’s doesn’t include Tobias Harris, who missed the regular-season finale because of rest.
Zhaire Smith, Furkan Korkmaz, and Joel Embiid were the most notable sidelined players. Markelle Fultz missed 35 games before being traded, but his inability to play was viewed as mostly mental.
Smith missed a total of 62 games from multiple ailments. The rookie was expected to return in December after being sidelined with a fracture in his left foot he suffered on Aug. 6. But Smith remained out following a severe allergic reaction to something he ate in September in the cafeteria at the team’s practice facility. Making sure players practice proper nutrition is part of the athlete care.
The swingman made his NBA debut on March 25 at the Orlando Magic.
Meanwhile, Korkmaz missed 22 straight games after the All-Star break a torn meniscus in his right knee. That came right after the second-year swingman sat out the final game before the break for what the team called, at that time, right knee soreness. We later learned it was his meniscus tear.
And there’s was Embiid. The two-time All-Star center missed 14 of the final 24 regular-season games with tendinitis in his left knee. He missed 18 regular-season games total.
Embiid was often overweight and out of shape after returning from an injury because he lacked a proper diet.
And things didn’t get any better in the postseason. Embiid missed Game 3 of the first-round playoff series with tendinitis. He was also listed as questionable and/or doubtful a few other postseason games because of his knee or because of some sickness.
Embiid has yet to play for a full season since being drafted third overall in 2014. He missed the first two seasons after two foot surgeries.
One can argue that Embiid’s situation was because he did not take his health care seriously and that the doctors should not have been held responsible.
However, the doctors were hired partly to help take care of the big man, and his load management and maintenance could be considered a failure.
The Sixers recognized after an end-of-season evaluation that there’s room for growth and improvement in the athlete care. That’s what led to Medina’s and Martin’s leaving the team.
The team looks to hire replacements before the start of the 2019-20 season. Until then, Dr. Christopher Dodson and Dr. Barry Kenneally will oversee things during the draft and free-agency period. Dodson is the team’s head physician, while Kenneally is an assistant team physician.
Medina came from Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona in September 2017, after serving as the team’s deputy director of sports science and medical department. He was FC Barcelona’s team physician from 2008-15 before moving to the team’s medical service department.
The Sixers created this vice president position for the renowned doctor. Martin reported to Medina, as did others.
Medina, who attended high school in Michigan, was based at the team's practice facility in Camden. In addition to the medical and sport science departments, he oversaw physiotherapy, athletic training, nutrition, and strength and conditioning.
Martin was the head sport scientist. The team hired him in June 2015 to be the director of health and performance research and development. He came to Sixers after holding a senior sports science position at the Australian Institute of Sports.
At the time of his hiring, the Sixers touted Martin for having 21 years of experience working with elite athletes and being a noted innovator and a leader in high-performance sports.
Avery Johnson is interviewing for an assistant-coaching position, a league source confirmed.
Johnson was the head coach at the University of Alabama the past four seasons. He also had NBA head-coaching stints with the Brooklyn Nets and the Dallas Mavericks.
Johnson and Sixers coach Brett Brown have a relationship from their days in the San Antonio Spurs organization. Brown was a longtime assistant there before becoming the Sixers’ head man before the 2013-14 season. Johnson had two stints at a point guard in San Antonio.