Sixers' Joel Embiid 'struggling with it' after entering health and safety protocols

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Embiid 'struggling with it' after entering protocols as Sixers deal with fatigue originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Among the 30 NBA teams, the Sixers have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 early in the 2021-22 season.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers on Monday put Joel Embiid in the same category as Tobias Harris

“He’s not doing great," Rivers said of Embiid before his team's game against the Knicks. “He’s struggling with it. Very similar to Tobias. That’s all I can tell you.”

Harris became the first Sixer to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols a week ago, while Embiid recently became the fourth. Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe are also in the protocols. 

Until the Sixers get reinforcements, they have no choice but to do their best with the players available. That's gone well so far as the team entered its three-game homestand with six straight wins and an Eastern Conference-best 8-2 record.

“We just play," Rivers said. “Georges (Niang) jokingly today, before we even knew about Joel, walked out at shootaround and said, ‘How many guys do we have today to win?’ That was his comment today, and that’s been our whole thought. I guarantee you (New York head coach Tom Thibodeau) and the Knicks are not going to feel bad for us when the game starts. We understand that.

“We have to keep trying to find ways to play, to win, to score — to do whatever we have to. And we’ve done that thus far. Obviously losing Joel, without Tobias, without Matisse, we get thin. But at the end of the day, we’re going to play. We’re going to compete.”

According to Rivers, both Tyrese Maxey and Niang admitted they were fatigued during the Sixers' win Saturday night over the Bulls. Managing minutes sounds great on paper, but it's difficult to do in practice with so few available players. Maxey played 89 minutes on the Sixers' latest two-game road trip.

“Tyrese said he was tired for the first time in his life. (Assistant coach Sam Cassell) said, ‘Well, good luck, because you’re going to play 40 the next game,'" Rivers said with a laugh.

The Sixers mandated that Maxey be completely off Sunday, though he apparently made multiple efforts to work out at the Sixers' practice facility after arriving home from Chicago. Rivers said the 21-year-old was "in there probably at about 7 this morning." 

Danny Green also had to forcefully instruct the basketball-immersed Maxey to rest.

“Yesterday I came in after we got home at around 11 o’clock," Maxey said after the Sixers' shootaround Monday. “I was on the court for about 15 minutes and (Green) came in, took the basketballs away and said, ‘Go home. Why are you here? You need to go home. You need to rest. Go get some recovery.’

“But I still come in. I just have to touch the basketball, see it go through the net. It makes me feel better inside.”