Covington takes step forward in rehab; Embiid does ‘a little bit' of practice

CAMDEN, N.J. — Robert Covington’s rehab appears to be moving in the right direction.

Though the veteran forward’s return from his long-term left knee injury is not imminent, he’s clearly made recent progress.

“It’s his first time back around (practice),” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said Sunday afternoon. “He has been on the court a few days. He did get out and participate in parts of practice today. It’s a good step forward. Hopefully, it’ll keep going forward.

“That’s kind of the thing with him. Each day you’ve got to check to see how it responds to some court time — extended court time. He had a pretty long session yesterday, and it looks like they’re going at it again a little bit longer. He’s tolerating everything so far, so hopefully he keeps going.”

Covington, who’s been sidelined since Dec. 30, took catch-and-shoot jumpers following practice.

According to Nurse, the Sixers held a non-contact practice and Covington participated in “most of” the drills.

“I think, again, you’re into this kind of ramp-up phase,” Nurse said. “But I just think with him, it’s a little different because … you’ve got to check that his knee can handle it, not swell up again and need to pull back.”

With all due respect to Covington, Joel Embiid’s injured left knee is of greater importance to the Sixers.

Nicolas Batum acknowledged as much by opening his post-practice media session with a brief statement in an amusing, “Let’s get this out of the way” tone.

“Yes, he practiced,” Batum said. “He looked good. He lifted. I don’t know when he’s coming back. I hope soon.”

Indeed, that just about covered what Nurse had shared 10 minutes or so prior. Nurse said Embiid “went through a little bit of the practice — all non-contact stuff.”

For trade deadline pickups like Cameron Payne, it was their first practice experience of any kind with the superstar big man.

“It was cool. I had to learn 15 more plays,” Payne said with a smile. “But besides that, it was cool just to see him out there. I haven’t seen him (in practice) since I’ve been here, so it was cool to see him out there today.”

Tobias Harris was not part of the Sixers’ practice after missing the team’s win Saturday over the Hornets with a right ankle sprain. The team later listed him as questionable for its Monday night matchup vs. the Heat. Along with Embiid and Covington, De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Kai Jones (right hamstring strain) are out.

Miami is currently right next to the Sixers in the always-changing Eastern Conference standings and earned a 2-0 season series lead with a narrow Feb. 14 victory in Philadelphia. Nurse is well-versed in the stylistic challenges that Miami will present Monday night.

“We’re just trying to battle them,” Nurse said. “We’ve have two really competitive games with them. We haven’t ever really gotten to play them with our true lineup, but that’s OK — we’ve got to do it. Listen, they’re going to run fast, cut fast, move fast on offense. They play half-court offense at a really good pace. We’re going to have to be ready to run with them and fight through a lot of that stuff.

“They’re a physical team. They’ve got some size matchups that have hurt us … post-ups at the wing and the guard that we’re going to have to scheme for. We’re going to have to figure out who’s guarding those guys. And then, when those guys aren’t on ‘em, what are we going to do? How are we going to double and all that kind of stuff? And we’re going to see a lot of zone tomorrow.”

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