WASHINGTON — Doc Rivers sees it differently.
One could determine the 76ers have a trend of losing to squads more decimated by injuries and health and safety protocol than them. Recent losses to the Atlanta Hawks (Thursday), the Brooklyn Nets (Dec. 16), and the Miami Heat (Dec. 15) are prime examples.
“It’s really not a trend, guys,” the coach said before Sunday’s shootaround for the meeting with the Washington Wizards. “Whoever said that, I disagree with that. Like the trend has been, we had a lot of guys out. So some of these games you are not going to win. I disagree that that’s a trend. I really do.”
Rivers is correct about the Sixers having key players sidelined throughout the season. But the Sixers had more of their key players in their losses to the Hawks, Nets and Heat. The Heat were without their three best players — All-Stars Jimmy Butler (tailbone contusion) and Bam Adebayo (right thumb reconstruction), along with Tyler Herro (right quad contusion), among others. The Sixers were without Georges Niang (COVID-19), Furkan Korkmaz (flu), and Ben Simmons, who has yet to play this season while requesting a trade.
Tyrese Maxey joined Niang, Korkmaz, and Simmons on the unavailable list the next night in Brooklyn because of a left quadriceps contusion. However, the Nets had seven players — James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’ Bembry, Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter, James Johnson, and Paul Millsap — sidelined because of COVID protocols. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was unable to play at Brooklyn due to being unvaccinated, and Joe Harris was sidelined after left-ankle surgery.
Against the Hawks, the Sixers had four players — Shake Milton, Andre Drummond, Danny Green, and Niang sidelined because of the COVID protocols — in addition to Simmons.
But the Hawks had Trae Young, Clint Capela, Sharife Cooper, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, and former Sixers Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Lou Williams all sidelined because of protocols. Meanwhile, Solomon Hill (right hamstring tightness) and De’Andre Hunter (right wrist injury recovery) were also out. And it didn’t help that Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) and Delon Wright (sprained ankle) left with injuries in the second half.
Rivers pointed out that the Hawks had Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins. He added that the Sixers were flat in the loss, and you won’t win some games like that not at full strength.
“That’s the one thing you can see all around the league,” he said. “There’s 82 games. Not every game, you’re not going to be perfect. There’s going to be games where you are flat. But if you are full strength and flat, you can win some of those games.”
Maxey, Niang back with Sixers
Maxey and Niang were both on hand for Sunday’s shootaround and were able to participate in the game against the Wizards clearing the protocols. Meanwhile, Embiid played despite missing shootaround because of being under the weather.
Niang, who missed the past four games with COVID, was greeted with cheers from teammates while walking into gym at the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center for the shootaround. Rivers even joked that Niang hadn’t done anything worthy to speak to the media. He said the reserve power forward was on a two-week vacation and called him “Cancun Georges. That’s your nickname, Cancun Georges.”
To Niang, the worst part of being quarantined was, “Just sitting there and watching. I’ve had a preseason with these guys, a small part of the season, and to sit there and not be able to go to war, as they say, with guys you care about and an organization that believes in you was probably the most frustrating part, especially the fact that I was asymptomatic the most part of it.”
Feeling tired was the only symptom that Niang felt. However, he thought that was a result of getting in at 3 a.m. on Dec. 14 after playing the night before in Memphis, Tenn.
The Sixers’ strength staff dropped off dumbbells, a bike, and a basketball at his apartment while he was in quarantine. He worked out with the dumbbells and bike in addition to using the apartment stairs to help with conditioning.
“I was shooting the ball up in the air as if I was Michael Jordan in ‘96. Nah, I’m just kidding,” Niang said. “But I just all that regular stuff that people do in quarantine to keep themselves ready to go.”
Meanwhile, Maxey was in protocols for less than a day.
Rivers declined to answer when asked if it was just the result of an inconclusive COVID test. However, one can imagine that was the case since Maxey never tested positive.
With anything other than a negative test result, a player has to be listed in the protocols. Following an inconclusive result, a player needs two negative test results 24 hours apart to be cleared.