NBA

Sixers ready to welcome Joel Embiid back after rough COVID stretch

Joel Embiid Sixers
Joel Embiid is back at Sixers facilities
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are poised to finally get Joel Embiid back in the lineup after the superstar center was sidelined due to COVID-19.

Two weeks after testing positive for the virus, Embiid returned to the 76ers facilities where he is expected to return to action after the team’s road trip, which concludes on Wednesday in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors.

“The fact that he’s out working again is huge,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said.

For now, he’s expected to suit up for the team’s game on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Embiid has missed the last eight games, beginning on Nov. 8 against the Knicks, after he tested positive for COVID-19. It brought a solid start to his 2021-22 season to a screeching halt after averaging 21.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game over his first nine contests.

Without the four-time All-Star and MVP runner-up — which also included a COVID-related absence for Tobias Harris, too — the 76ers slumped. In their last eight games without Embiid, they’re 2-6 and find themselves in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Granted, it’s only three games back of the East-leading Brooklyn Nets.

Still, the 76ers managed to pull out a slim victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night without Embiid, Harris (hip injury), Seth Curry (back) and Danny Green (hamstring) — picking up their second win in their last three games.

Tyrese Maxey stepped up big-time with 24 points and four assists in the 102-94 win.

“Guys stepped up tonight,” Maxey said. “We really buckled down defensively in the last four minutes. We got so many consecutive stops and guys like Shake [Milton] hit big shots late. It was just a team collective effort.”

It’ll be a completely different ask to churn out the same kind of performance against the Warriors compared to a Kings team that had already fired their head coach, Luke Walton. Golden State is off to a torrid start behind Stephen Curry, winning 15 of their first 17 games.

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