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Embiid back practicing, questionable to return; Melton sidelined again

Embiid back practicing, questionable to return; Melton sidelined again originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers on Sunday officially listed Joel Embiid as questionable to return for their Monday afternoon matchup vs. the Rockets.

After missing the team’s past three games with a left knee injury, Embiid practiced on Sunday. He also played 3-on-3 with assistant coaches and player development staffers.

He went through the full practice,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said. “As you can see, he’s still out there working. He’s moving good, looks good.

“He’s hopeful for tomorrow. We’re not ready to make a call on it yet. But we’ll see, probably as usual, pregame. We’ll see how everything goes tonight, tomorrow, and go from there.”

The Sixers ruled out De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response) and Robert Covington (left knee inflammation). They listed Mo Bamba (right knee fat pad impingement) as doubtful.

Melton had sat out the Sixers’ first three games of January with a “lumbar spine soreness” designation. He played the past two games on a minutes restriction that the team aimed to gradually loosen. Melton had a 25-minute outing Friday night in the Sixers’ win over the Kings and posted six points on 2-for-9 shooting, four rebounds and three assists.

Covington’s absence will be the 33-year-old forward’s sixth straight.

“It’s just kind of coming and going with the swelling,” Nurse said. “One day it does, one day it doesn’t. The days it doesn’t, you’re hopeful. And the days it does, you’ve just got to go back to the drawing board. So we’re still trying to work through that.”

Kelly Oubre Jr. practiced Sunday and wasn’t on the Sixers’ injury report. He’d been sidelined vs. Sacramento with a right big toe injury that Nurse said “kind of flamed up” during Oubre’s pregame workout.

Paul Reed remains the one Sixer who’s played in every game this season. The 24-year-old didn’t have a big scoring night against the Kings (eight points on 3-for-9 shooting), but the Sixers were pleased with his many other contributions.

Over 24 minutes, Reed tallied five offensive rebounds, three blocks, two steals, two assists and zero turnovers.

“I told P-Reed, ‘Listen, I’ve been with you for three years and I’ve seen you go get every offensive rebound, go get every defensive rebound, block every shot, get steals,” Tyrese Maxey said Friday. “I want you to get back to that, because that’s who you are.’

“That’s just a conversation you can have with somebody when you have a good relationship with them. Our relationship is strong, and he told me he got me. He was extremely aggressive tonight.”

Reed was certainly persistent and pesky on the offensive glass Friday.

Since he entered the NBA, that’s been one of his best qualities.

“Listen, Paul had a great game the other night,” Nurse said Sunday. “Paul’s got some strengths. We need to play to those. And use his energy … and his thoughts and prep and minutes on the floor to play to those strengths. And that’s what he did the other night. That’s how I’m going to try to continue to move him forward. That’s where I want him to progress.

“Get more loose balls than you’re already getting; make more hustle plays than you’re already (making); get more extra possessions than you’re already getting. It’s those areas. I’m not as concerned with trying to expand his offensive game or any of that kind of stuff, because he needs to excel at what he’s really doing well. That stuff may or may not come in time, but he’s already a really good NBA player at what he does and we need to see that stuff more often.”

Nurse also left the Sacramento game happy with how Maxey handled the Kings’ regular pick-and-roll blitzes.

Though Maxey’s offensive numbers weren’t exceptional — 21 points on 6-for-17 shooting, four assists, three turnovers — he often responded to the extra perimeter attention well. Maxey was glad to make simple passes and set up 4-on-3 situations that created wide-open shots for teammates like Nicolas Batum.

Especially with Embiid’s recent absences, Maxey has gained more reps against opponents who reasonably treat him as a bona fide No. 1 scoring option.

“He doesn’t rush his game,” Batum said of Maxey. “He tries to be patient, not to force anything. Sometimes you can see guys getting frustrated because (the defense) takes away some stuff. … He lets the game come to him, tries to use his teammates, and they’re going to find him after that. … I think he’s been doing a good job to adjust to that. You have to adjust; that’s pretty much new to him, I think.

“That’s going to be a game plan, because you’re really good. They don’t want you to kick their ass, to get 40 — he’s done that a couple times. He’s right there. I think it’s just the beginning of his potential.”