Joel Embiid to join Sixers on road for their two-game trip

Joel Embiid to join Sixers on road for their two-game trip originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — Nick Nurse had concrete news to share Thursday.

Joel Embiid will join the Sixers’ upcoming two-game trip and work out on the road, according to the team’s head coach.

Nurse’s injury updates on Embiid haven't generally included much detail, but that's clearly a significant step in the superstar big man's rehab following a left meniscus procedure.

Nurse said Embiid took part in the Sixers’ practice, which he indicated was a light one.

“I mean, we didn’t really practice, but he was in today doing work,” Nurse said. “He was doing it against other players — just kind of skill work with some live bodies.”

Outside of Embiid saying he plans to play again this season, the Sixers haven’t offered a specific timeline for his return.

“I’d love to give you one,” Nurse said. “I’d love to not have to continue this —  and that means he’s back playing, right? Again, I think that it’s coming. But I also see some growth here. I think this is helping us.

“Yeah, I want to put the best players we’ve got on the floor, no doubt about it. Give ourselves the best chance to win. But I’m ready to go to the drawing board and to battle with the guys here to continue polishing and improving this group.”

De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) did not practice Thursday.

“Cov is progressing a little bit,” Nurse said Wednesday night before the Sixers’ one-point loss to the Clippers. “It looks like he could make a return here at some point. Again, I’m not sure. All these things are very similar. They put in a lot of work one day and you’ve got to wait to see how it responds, see when they get to go again. But he’s making some progress.

“Melt is probably not as close yet. He’s still kind of on a pain tolerance thing. But again, we’re kind of hopeful that both of them will be back at some point before this regular season ends.”

The Sixers are set to visit the Cavs on Friday night and the Raptors on Sunday. They enter the trip eighth in the Eastern Conference at 39-34, a half-game behind the seventh-seeded Heat and 1.5 games behind the No. 6 Pacers.

Almost every game since Embiid’s last appearance has been hard work for the Sixers. They’ve gone 10-17 during his absence and earned only two double-digit wins.

Having the reigning MVP around the team and trending toward a return can’t hurt.

“It can provide a huge lift,” Paul Reed said. “He’s been our leader and our main guy all season long. I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to feed off his energy.”

Without Embiid, there’s been no question about who’s the Sixers’ main guy. Tyrese Maxey has assumed that role, facing frequent blitzes and heightened physicality as the top name on all opposing scouting reports.

In both the Sixers’ win Sunday over the Clippers and their defeat Wednesday, Maxey played 44 minutes. His season average of 37.4 minutes ranks third in the NBA.

Is Nurse fine with those sorts of games where Maxey barely sits at all?

“I’m not too bad with it,” he said. “I don’t think it should be every night. I think situationally, matchup-wise, the team we’re playing … it could happen. I would say it’s going to be similar to that pretty soon here in the playoffs, right? So get a few of those under his belt. I think it fluctuates a lot, too. There’s some nights that whoever comes in for him gets on a little bit of a run and we’re able to really extend a break here or there.

“And I was certainly thinking about getting him one in the fourth (quarter) a couple of different times — couple minutes here and there. I think it’s just part of where he’s at right now. … (Compared to) where he was a year ago, he’s in another place.

“Yeah, I like it. I think he’s handling it well and I think he needs to continue to handle it well. I think it’s just going to make him better.”