Robert Covington kept his wish list very simple when asked by Joel Embiid what he wanted for his birthday.
"A ‘W' tomorrow," said Covington, who turned 27 on Thursday.
Realistically, the swingman will be happy just getting back on the court. Covington is expected to play after missing the last two games of the Sixers' road trip following a scary back injury he suffered during last Saturday's 105-98 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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With 1:08 remaining, Covington attempted to save a ball near the sideline before he tumbled out of bounds and over the courtside seats near the Cavaliers' bench. He kept falling off the four- to five-inch dropoff from the Quicken Loans Arena court to the ground and hit a metal object as he landed. Covington walked off the court with help from his teammates and was labeled with a lower-back contusion.
Now a few days of rest and rehab has him ready for a return in Friday's home matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's feeling good," Covington said of his back after Thursday's practice at the Sixers' training complex. "The past few days, I've done a lot of rehab, acupuncture stuff. My back today, I felt really great. … I felt great coming into practice. Acupuncture yesterday, did a lot of movement, a lot of stuff that really opened up my back so I feel really good today."
Covington's return couldn't come at a better time for the Sixers.
Sure, a team can always use a player that has averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and shot 42.7 percent from three-point range this season. However, it will be Covington's defense that will come in handy the most against the dangerous Thunder trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Whether Covington comes out strong or struggles to find a rhythm after his injury, the Sixers will still be happy just to have him back on the floor healthy.
"It's his birthday today, so he looked a little bit older. But he looked good," head coach Brett Brown said.