The NBA players are among the best athletes in world, but even they aren’t always on even terms when facing one opponent: COVID-19.
Seth Curry missed seven consecutive games for the 76ers in early January, six of them after testing positive for COVID.
Since returning, he has also missed time due to ankle and hip injuries. As Curry stated following Tuesday’s practice with the Sixers gearing up to begin the playoffs on Sunday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent, he is still experiencing the aftereffects of COVID.
“It’s hard to explain, but I feel a little bit different as a whole,” Curry said. “Just the way I breathe at times a little bit different, a little more fatigued, but pretty much healthy.”
Last month, Boston Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum talked about the struggles he has had since coming back after testing positive for COVID. Tatum said when he returned, he had to use an inhaler before games.
Curry says he didn’t have to use an inhaler but he can identify with the struggles that Tatum had.
“[I am] coming back and just trying to work through it, just trying to be patient with myself and hopefully get back all the way, the way I was feeling before,” Curry said. “I am good enough to go and be out on the floor, so that is the good part.”
Curry, acquired from Dallas in the offseason trade for Josh Richardson and a second-round pick, has enjoyed a solid season. He averaged 12.5 points and shot a team-best 45% from three-point range, which ranked sixth in the NBA.
In his first eight games before injuring an ankle and then contracting COVID, he averaged 17 points and shot 59.5% from three-point range.
During the 49 games since returning, he averaged 11.7 points and shot 42.4% from three-point range.
Waiting for their opponent
The NBA announced on Tuesday that the Sixers will open their first round playoff series on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, with the time and opponent still to be determined.
The Sixers (49-23) are the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference. They have to await the results of three play-in games to know their opponent.
The loser of Tuesday’s play-in game between No. 7 Boston and No. 8 Washington will play the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between No. 10 Charlotte and No. 9 Indiana on Thursday for the right to earn the No. 8 seed and face the Sixers.
“We will pretty much focus on us,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Let’s say we knew our opponent, we probably wouldn’t work on our opponent until Thursday anyway.”
Rivers said there was perfect attendance at practice. That included defensive whiz Matisse Thybulle, who missed the final four games of the regular season with left hand soreness.
“Everybody practiced and everybody was good,” Rivers said.
Working on plenty
Hearing Rivers talk, one would think that the Sixers were the No. 8 seed. River said the team had a laundry list to work on this week in preparation for the postseason.
“Our execution offensively, I really thought the slippage showed in a great way, the last month of the season,” Rivers said. “I thought a lot of that, we were playing teams with injuries and you just mentally kind of slide, so just getting back to that is really important.”
The Sixers will also work on how to counter when teams double- and triple-team Joel Embiid and also against zone defenses. For instance, the Sixers struggled in last week’s 106-94 loss in Miami against the Heat’s matchup zone.
“We have handled the Joel stuff very well, the zone stuff very well until the last couple of games, probably the last five games, that’s all, we didn’t handle either one really well, but there is nothing we haven’t done all year,” Rivers said. “I am not that concerned by it, but we have to get back to doing what we were doing. ... There are other things that I thought, especially with our spacing and our cutting, I thought we got very lazy in that as well.”
One other thing to work on this week is transition defense. The Sixers allowed the second-most fast-break points in the NBA, 14.3 points per game.