Philadelphia 76ers

Rivers Says He'll Use 7 Players vs. Nuggets, Is Worried About Sixers' Health

Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Jesse D. Garrabrant

Despite the Sixers being heavily impacted by COVID-19, the team’s game 3 p.m. Saturday at Wells Fargo Center against the Denver Nuggets is expected to be played as scheduled.

NBA teams must have at least eight players available for a game to proceed, and the Sixers reached that minimum number. 

"An hour ago we were told we were playing," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said in his pregame media availability about 90 minutes before tip-off. "I think we have eight active players. One has been injured in Mike Scott. I can tell you now, there’s no way I’m going to play him. I just don’t think he should play.

"So you can make a case we have seven bodies to throw out. We had a walkthrough that I wasn’t a part of, because I was on a call with the league. I have a list here that I have not even looked at of players. We’re going to throw them together. Dwight Howard’s going to play point guard tonight and we’re going to see how it goes.”

Scott has been sidelined for the past four games with a left knee contusion. 

Rivers said he learned at halftime of Thursday night's game against the Nets that Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to Curry, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier are out Saturday because of health and safety protocols.

Rivers was unsure how long those players will be out and said they had contact with Curry at a team meal.

"They were, I think, at a table," he said. "It wasn’t, like, close contact, so maybe that’ll shorten their days (out). I don’t know that; I don’t know anything about any of this. Especially today, I want to make the statement that Doc is a nickname, because I clearly don’t know the medical part of this whole thing.”

Danny Green and rookie forward Paul Reed are available after being listed as questionable due to health and safety protocols on the NBA's injury report Friday night. Furkan Korkmaz (left adductor strain) and Terrance Ferguson (personal reasons) are out for non-COVID reasons.

And, though they had not appeared on the league's injury report until 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are out, as well. Simmons has left knee swelling and Embiid has back tightness, per the NBA's official report

"Ben in the Brooklyn game had some knee stiffness," Rivers said. "So we almost probably knew after the game that he wouldn’t play tonight. And then Joel started complaining about his back — started yesterday. And we didn’t know if he was playing or not but honestly, with the minutes we would have to ask (from him), it would be insane to play him tonight.”

Tyrese Maxey and Scott missed the beginning of training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, joining the Sixers once they cleared the NBA’s protocols. Scott said he had symptoms in mid-November and was “going through it,” while Maxey said he lost his sense of taste and smell but otherwise felt fine.

Though the NBA managed to complete its 2019-20 season during the pandemic after pausing last March, playing in Walt Disney World’s “bubble” removed many potential challenges. The prospect of a full season in home markets was more daunting for the league, especially with COVID-19 cases in the United States rising over the winter. With the understanding that COVID-19-related postponements were a possibility, the NBA last month released only the first half of this season’s 72-game schedule

Rivers, who said in December that he was "very concerned" about whether the NBA would be able to safely manage this season, said he didn't think the Sixers should be playing.

“Listen, COVID-wise, I’m 59 years old and (assistant coach Dan Burke's) older," Rivers said. "... I trust the league and I trust the doctors as far as health-wise. I’m more concerned with health on the floor.

"We’re going to play players tonight that haven’t played a lot of minutes. When you’ve got seven bodies, someone’s going to have to play 40-plus minutes. That’s just not for today; that’s long-term health with the accumulation of games. … I’m actually more concerned about that than I am, actually, about COVID. And I am concerned about COVID; the league is and everyone else is, as well. It’s a lot of stuff going on.”

The betting market was not favoring the Sixers in the game. In the first quarter, a $1 bet placed on a Sixers win through Fanduel would win you $11.20. Or you could bet $1 on the Nuggets to win a whopping $0.06.

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