The Philadelphia 76ers are in the midst of a tough stretch as they wind down the regular season and prepare for the playoffs. They are at the beginning of a four-game road trip that began on Wednesday with an easy 116-91 win over the Chicago Bulls.
The Sixers were able to win that game despite being so short-handed. They were missing star point guard James Harden due to left Achilles soreness and Jalen McDaniels due to a right hip injury. On top of that, they lost Joel Embiid at halftime due to mild calf tightness, though it does sound like if the game was closer, Embiid would have continued to play.
The Sixers do expect Embiid to return on Friday when they continue the road trip in The Bay against the Golden State Warriors and it sounds like it will be the same for Harden.
“I do,” coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Harden returning. “I do, but I can’t guarantee that, you know, but I do expect him back.”
With that being said, the Sixers are not going to push him. There are 10 games left now before the playoffs begin and the postseason is just so much more important at the moment.
Health has been such a big deal for the Sixers. Embiid has dealt with major injuries in the past two postseason runs as well as in the 2018 playoffs. Harden was dealing with the hamstring issue in his first playoff run with the Sixers in 2022. Philadelphia wants to be sure that he is ready for the postseason.
“We don’t want him playing if it’s sore,” Rivers added on Harden. “So if it’s sore enough, we still won’t play him on Friday. We just—we’re at that point. Like probably early in the year, everybody still played. We’ve gone into playoffs two years in a row with injuries. We all know you don’t win in the playoffs when your key guys aren’t healthy, period, and so we’re going to do whatever we can to be healthy.”
Time will tell whether Harden can return, but if he isn’t 100% ready, then it would bd in Philadelphia’s best interest to sit him.