Curry’s return marks rare floor reunion of Sixers’ regulars


Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes, left, drives to the basket against the Sixers’ Seth Curry during the first half Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center, (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Seth Curry showed up at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday, twisted his ankle one way, then the other, then was declared ready to face the Sacramento Kings.

For a second, Doc Rivers was in disbelief.

It wasn’t so much that Curry would be available for the first time in five games due to the sore left ankle, but that so would Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green.

That meant the Sixers were effectively fully staffed … a rarity in the NBA of 2021-22.

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“Yeah,” Rivers said before the game. “But that’s probably true for everyone, though. Really. I swear, every night you see an interview with a coach and they are talking about how many guys they have out or that it is nice to have guys back.

“It’s just been that type of season. It’s just been that type of year.”

Basketball players ever at risk of a wrenched joint or bruised muscle, the personnel crisis has been complicated by pandemic health and safety protocols requiring certain players to serve time in isolation. Every Sixer of significance has missed some time this season due to injury or virus regulations.

Not including Ben Simmons (personal reasons), only Shake Milton was unavailable Saturday. Milton has played in just two games since Dec. 20 and continues to recover from a back injury.

All alternatives considered, Rivers was happy with the essentially full bench.

“It’s nice to have them,” he said. “I’ll tell you that.”

As with any crisis, there is opportunity. Charlie Brown Jr. took the most of his, joining the Sixers as a fill-in during an injury-run, winning a job and playing in all 11 games before Saturday. That included two starts.

“You learn about the individual guy in those situations,” Rivers said. “A great example is Charlie. He would not have gotten any minutes, but he did. And now you know that defensively he can play in this league.”

Brown, the Saint Joseph’s product, had limited previous experience with Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Dallas, and was averaging 13.5 minutes and 2.2 points for the Sixers.

“That’s a big step forward for him,” Rivers said. “And it helps us even more in evaluating talent.”

Joel Embiid is 27 and has been known to miss the occasional work night with the odd injury. But he has played in 20 consecutive games and has been relatively pain-free. That inspired him to tell CNN that he intends to keep at it for a while.

“Since I have been here, we have been through a lot,” he said. “So any time you get the chance to win, it’s always good.

“I’m playing basketball freely,” he added. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I don’t mind. I love it. I have probably got 10 more years of this. So I’ve got to enjoy it as much as possible.”

A snowstorm caused the Sixers to cancel their Saturday morning shootaround. One problem: They couldn’t shoot pregame because the Wells Fargo Center was being reconfigured following an overtime Flyers game.

“I was the coach of the Clippers for five years, and this was every weekend,” Rivers said. “Every weekend. We played a lot of second games after the Lakers or Kings. So you get used to this. And it’s a disruption for both teams.”

Smiling, Rivers said he did enjoy one advantage of coaching in Hollywood.

“I always hoped the other team would get in nice and early to the city the night before,” he said. “That way, a Friday night in L.A. could do its job. That’s all I am going to say.”


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