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Joel Embiid’s return from COVID-19 protocols could be near for Sixers

Walker will lead the day-to-day operations of the SYF with management over partnership development, community engagement, financial budgeting and planning.

Sixers center Joel Embiid against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, October 30, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Sixers center Joel Embiid against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, October 30, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Renowned personal trainer Drew Hanlen posted a photo of the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden on Sunday, including a hashtag “unseen hours.” Coach Doc Rivers confirmed Monday morning that Hanlen has been working out with All-Star center Joel Embiid, who has missed the past seven games while in health and safety protocols and will not play Monday against the Kings.

In addition to returning two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart, a player in protocols must also pass cardiovascular testing before rejoining their team. Rivers said Embiid has already passed one of the tests and had “another big one” Monday. Should he pass that, the Sixers then must decide whether to fly Embiid across the country for Wednesday’s road-trip finale at Golden State, or have him reunite with the team in Philadelphia for home games against Minnesota on Saturday and Orlando next Monday.

“But the fact that he’s out working again is huge,” Rivers said.

Embiid was one of four Sixers starters to miss Monday’s game, joining Tobias Harris (hip), Seth Curry (back), and Danny Green (hamstring).

Sixers Youth Foundation names executive director

Leslie M. Walker views sports as a community unifier and communication vehicle. She believes the 76ers’ resources can be used to engage the region’s children.

Now as the new executive director of the Sixers Youth Foundation, Walker aims to marry her past experiences with the purpose of the nonprofit philanthropic extension of the organization to use basketball to empower children from underserved communities.

“I really see how impactful the organization is,” Walker recently told The Inquirer, “and that I can bring the skills I have to help advance the mission and the giving.”

Per a news release, Walker “will lead the day-to-day operations of the SYF with management over partnership development, community engagement, financial budgeting and planning in addition to fundraising and event strategy.” She will also develop and execute fully integrated sports and entertainment programming for children in Philadelphia and Camden, where the Sixers’ practice facility and offices are located.

» READ MORE: ‘Coach’ Danny Green still impacting the Sixers from the sidelines while battling a hamstring injury

Walker comes to the Sixers from the Free Library of Philadelphia, where she served as the interim director for the past 16 months. There, she oversaw more than 700 employees in areas such as youth services and programs, cultural and civic engagement, and finance and procurement.

Other past work includes executive roles at the Please Touch Museum designed for children and Philadelphia Safe and Sound, a nonprofit organization that distributed city dollars to after-school programs before ceasing operations in 2008. She also held consulting roles at Philadelphia Foundation and Centennial Parkside CDC, two organizations that use philanthropy to improve communities.

Walker’s experience includes working within large systems, similar to how the Sixers Youth Foundation fits within the entire organization. She has built relationships with multiple partners simultaneously for funding. She has also created, implemented and evaluated programming, including for children.

“Leslie’s extensive experience in the nonprofit sector speaks for itself,” Marjorie Harris, chair of the Sixers Youth Foundation, said in a statement. “In our conversations, what struck me most about Leslie was her dedication to improving children’s lives and her desire to create sustainable, systemic change in Philly.

“I look forward to seeing her passion in action and the positive impact that she will undoubtedly have on our local communities.”

» READ MORE: The 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey continues to impress with his improved play

Walker feels similarly about Harris, saying the chair’s passion for helping children “is what did it for me” during her interview process. She hopes to bring a “collaborative spirit” to the job and is “really looking forward to how all the different pieces [of the organization] will help support the work of the foundation.” That includes involving current and former players in programming and events.

Walker grew up in South Jersey, received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University-Camden, her master’s from St. Joseph’s, and raised her two college-aged children in Philadelphia.

The Sixers Youth Foundation was founded in 2015. Recent initiatives include an auction of game-worn sneakers that raised more than $600,000, providing a $50,000 grant to the Greater Philadelphia YMCA’s Soccer for Success program and commissioning a “State of Play” study by the Aspen Institute to provide insight on Camden youths’ access to healthy activity and sports and identify additional opportunities for programming.

Kings present unique challenge after coaching change

Rivers joked with a Sacramento-based media member before Monday’s shootaround that “we don’t need Alvin to start good. Continue his misery.”

Rivers was referring to Alvin Gentry, who became the Kings’ interim head coach after Luke Walton was fired Sunday morning. Gentry has been an NBA coaching mainstay for more than 30 years and was Rivers’ associate head coach with the Clippers during the 2013-14 season.

Rivers lamented before Monday’s game that the Clippers “allowed Golden State to steal him from us [in 2014]. We should have kept him if we could have.” Gentry, who is now an interim coach for the fourth time in his career, was also reported to be in contention to join Rivers’ first Sixers staff last season before going to Sacramento as Walton’s top assistant.

“He’s got a great basketball mind, and he’s been around this kind of transition,” Rivers said. " ... That’s also why teams want him around, just in case something [happens]. He is a guy that has the ability to fix things, so he’ll be terrific here.”

» READ MORE: Sixers expected to be without Tobias Harris in Monday’s game against the Kings

Rivers said he expects Gentry to utilize point guard De’Aaron Fox’s speed to increase the Kings’ overall tempo, but for their schemes to look relatively the same.

“They’re not going to come out with a whole new team,” Rivers said. “As far as I know, they have the same players. … It’s a harder game for us, because everybody wants to prove themselves to the new coach, and you don’t want that to happen.”