Sixers expect key returns on horizon as post-All-Star team takes shape

Sixers expect key returns on horizon as post-All-Star team takes shape originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — For the first time in a long time, the Sixers’ practice gym doesn’t seem sparse.

“Everybody was in today,” head coach Nick Nurse said following Wednesday’s practice. “Everybody was in the full practice other than (Robert) Covington and Joel (Embiid), obviously.”

Both Covington and Embiid are out with left knee injuries. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said on Feb. 9 that he’s “hopeful” Embiid will return this regular season, and the organization hasn't shifted from that optimism about the reigning MVP big man.

How about Covington? Nurse checked in Wednesday with Sixers vice president of athlete Simon Rice about the veteran forward’s status.

“(Rice) said probably return to play in like three weeks,” Nurse said. “So that’s out there a bit, but he did say that’s kind of what he thought today.”

A Sixers official said Wednesday night that Covington is progressing in his rehab and will be re-evaluated in approximately 10-14 days.

The Sixers will kick off their post-All-Star slate Thursday evening vs. the Knicks. At a minimum, Nurse anticipates having more options at his disposal.

Tobias Harris missed the Sixers’ last two games with a left hip injury. Neither De'Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response) nor Nicolas Batum (left hamstring strain) have played yet in February.

“I think Nico looks pretty likely,” Nurse said of Batum’s chances to return Thursday. “Melt, we’ve probably just got to make sure he’s OK tomorrow morning. I’d say we’ll get one, maybe both (back). But one for sure.”

The team later officially listed Batum as questionable and Melton as still out. Harris didn't appear on the Sixers' injury report.

The Sixers have also recently added Kyle Lowry and 10-day contract signee Darius Bazley.

Even trade deadline pickups Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne hadn’t experienced a Nurse practice until Tuesday.

“We should be able to have a little more depth, a little more solid bench,” Nurse said. “We certainly have grown at the guard position a lot in the last few weeks. So that’s good; we needed to.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. I think there will be some guys with limited minutes, guys in and out, guys working back into shape, guys working back into rhythm. But it looks good having those guys out there.”