OKLAHOMA CITY — For Joel Embiid, injuries have often been unavoidable.
It’s something he’s dealt with during each of his eight NBA seasons since being selected third overall by the 76ers in the 2014 draft.
But the thought was this season would be somewhat different. Embiid came into training camp in the best shape of his life. The small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee he suffered and played with last postseason had healed.
Unfortunately for Embiid, he bumped the same knee in Wednesday’s season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans and has been hampered by knee soreness since. So he’s already dealing with knee injuries less than a week into a seven-month season.
The four-time All-Star donned what looked like a massive heating pad on his knee while resting on the bench in Friday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets. He donned the same pad before Sunday morning’s shootaround at Paycom Center for that night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
One would assume his knee is a cause for concern for a squad whose success depends heavily on Embiid’s health.
The Sixers will publicly tell you no.
“Joel is 7-feet tall, weighs whatever he weighs,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Every big guy goes through this. It’s not surprising. Joel is in great shape. I think he will play far more than he doesn’t. That’s part of it.
“So no, that doesn’t faze me at all.”
While Embiid was cleared to play right before Sunday’s game, backup center Andre Drummond was sidelined. Drummond was listed as doubtful Sunday morning with a right sprained ankle, but Rivers said he didn’t expect him to play. The coach later doubled down, saying of his second unit: “Tonight they won’t have Drum.”
Embiid averaged 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists. 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks through two games. Meanwhile, Drummond is averaging a league-fourth-best 13.5 rebounds this season.
Springer assigned to Delaware Blue Coats
Sixers first-round pick Jaden Springer was assigned to the Sixers’ NBA G League team, the Delaware Blue Coats. He and two-way player Aaron Henry will both participate in Delaware’s training camp, which begins on Monday.
The move provides Springer the opportunity to get playing time. As a Sixer, he’s only seen mop-up duty. Springer, who turned 19 last month, played the final 2 minutes, 4 seconds of the Sixers’ 117-97 season-opening victory over the Pelicans. He did not play in Friday’s 114-109 loss to the Nets.
The Sixers selected Springer with the 28th pick in July’s NBA draft. The goal from the start was to get him extended playing with the Blue Coats.
Homecoming for Shake Milton
Sunday’s game was sort of a homecoming for sidelined Sixers guard Shake Milton (sprained right ankle). Milton grew up in Owassa, Okla., which is about a 1-hour, 50-minute drive to OKC.
Milton was Oklahoma’s Gatorade player of the year during his junior and senior seasons at Owasso High School. He averaged 29.7 points and 4.4 assists as a senior en route to being named Tulsa World Player of the Year, the Oklahoma Super 5 Player of the Year, and to the Oklahoma Coaches Association all-state team.
Milton hasn’t scrimmaged since suffering the injury during practice in the preseason. However, he’s been traveling with the team and participating in drills after practices, shootarounds and before games.
“He’s sliding. He’s shooting,” Rivers said. “They’ve not given me a timetable, because I don’t ask unless he’s close close, the next game. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him within the week. But I’m guessing. I have no idea.”