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Sixers, Doc Rivers are looking for preventative measures to combat COVID-19

Rivers told the media of his team's proposed plans: “We’re going to make some of our own changes. We want to be the team with the least. We still lead with COVID games off."

Sixers standouts Joel Embiid, left, and Tobias Harris have both missed time with COVID.
Sixers standouts Joel Embiid, left, and Tobias Harris have both missed time with COVID.Read moreChris Szagola / AP

NEW YORK — Doc Rivers said he thinks the NBA is taking a closer look at how the league is handling positive COVID-19 tests.

“Listen, we got all the sports leagues putting their brains together at the same time, probably,” the 76ers coach said before Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

But Rivers also revealed that the Sixers had a call on Wednesday about making their own changes.

The meeting came on the same day that Georges Niang became the fifth Sixers player and at least seventh person affiliated with the team to test positive for COVID-19. Players Tobias Harris, Isaiah Joe, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris all tested positive last month.

“We’re going to make some of our own changes,” Rivers said. “We want to be the team with the least. We still lead with COVID games off.

“You know, that one stretch was brutal for us and now other teams are going through it. So it’s no fun.”

Niang, Harris, Joe, Embiid, and Thybulle have missed 29 combined games, including Thursday’s contest, after testing positive for the coronavirus.

» READ MORE: Sixers comeback falls short as they lose 101-96 to the undermanned Miami Heat

Meanwhile, they faced a Nets squad with seven players — James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’ Bembry, Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter, James Johnson, and Paul Millsap — sidelined due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Rivers said the Sixers have had discussions about shifting back to some of the precautions the league had in place last season. He declined to share what the potential precautions were.

“Not yet, because we haven’t decided exactly what we are doing,” Rivers said.

He did say members of the team are being tested.

Niang ‘mad’ that he has COVID

Rivers has spoken to Niang since he tested positive.

The coach said their conversation was filled with laughter but noted that Niang is “mad” at his situation.

“He doesn’t know how he got it,” Rivers said. “The same thing you get from almost everyone who gets it because they are frustrated, because they feel like they’re trying to do the right stuff. And his first worry is, does anyone else have it? That’s everyone’s first question, because they don’t want to be that guy, you know?

“But he’s doing all right.”

Rivers said the strong symptoms haven’t hit Niang at this point. The coach hopes he goes through a mild case of COVID.

Harris not looking for sympathy

Not everyone will feel sorry for Harris and other players who tested positive right about now, and the Sixers forward knows that.

Never mind that he’s experiencing aftereffects of COVID-19 that have contributed to some of his struggles on the court. The Sixers power forward realizes that, no matter what’s going on, he’s going to be solely judged by his performance.

Harris is not complaining or looking for sympathy. He knows this comes with the territory as a professional athlete, especially one with an $180 million contract.

“Fans and people watching, once you get on that court, nobody cares,” he said. “You know, that’s just a fact. Nobody cares what’s going on with you, health-wise or at home or whatever. It’s like: What are you doing right now on the floor to help the team win?

“That’s part of the game, honestly, and I’m not complaining about it.”

» READ MORE: Doc Rivers talks about how COVID-19 cases are trending as Georges Niang becomes latest Sixers player to enter health and safety protocols

But something has definitely been amiss with Harris since his return. He’s averaged 18.4 points, but there are stretches when he looks fatigued and a step too slow.

“We have a team of [people] who have had COVID, we do have those conversations, like, ‘How do you feel?’” Harris said. “‘How does your wind feel out there?’ Or yesterday [someone] had some chest pains.”

The Sixers players who had COVID have regular conversations and talk about the unexplainable symptoms they experience overnight.

“Those things are real,” Harris said.

Galloway signs with Nets

Former St. Joseph’s standout Langston Galloway signed his 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. That night, he scored three points against the Sixers at the Barclays Center.

Brooklyn was able to use a 10-day hardship exception to sign the guard. The rule allows for a NBA team to exceed the 15-man roster limit when at least four players are sick or injured for longer than two weeks.

» READ MORE: While the Sixers are especially snakebit, this week underscored COVID-19′s league-wide impact

Kyrie Irving is ineligible to play, while Joe Harris is sidelined after left-ankle surgery. Meanwhile, Harden, Aldridge, Bembry, Brown, Carter, Johnson, and Millsap are in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Galloway has averaged 8.2 points and 1.6 assists in a combined seven seasons with the New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, and Phoenix Suns.