76ers' Simmons, Embiid to miss 2nd-half opening game due to NBA's health and safety protocols
All-Star duo will be cleared to return if both continue to test negative for COVID-19
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will both be unable to start the second half of the season with the Philadelphia 76ers, though neither All-Star will be missing from the Eastern Conference leaders' lineup for long.
Both will miss Philadelphia's game Thursday in Chicago, and Simmons will also miss the 76ers' contest on Friday against Washington. Provided both continue to test negative for COVID-19, they would be cleared after those games, the 76ers said.
Simmons and Embiid both travelled to Atlanta for Sunday's All-Star Game, only to learn the night before that they were flagged by contact tracing data. The barber that both visited prior to their private flights to Atlanta tested positive for COVID-19, and even though neither Embiid nor Simmons tested positive the league's health and safety protocols for navigating through a pandemic this season meant they had to be sidelined for a week.
Games resume in the NBA on Wednesday after the All-Star break, with a pair of contests — San Antonio visiting Dallas and Washington going to Memphis.
The Spurs and Grizzlies both have 40 games left to play, the most in the NBA, after each club saw their first-half schedules interrupted by virus-related reasons. San Antonio will get a pair of players back Wednesday after long breaks while in the league's protocols, with Rudy Gay and Derrick White now off the injury report.
Dallas and Washington both have 38 games remaining, tied for the third-most in the league. The Wizards' season was halted for nearly two weeks in January because of positive tests and contact tracing issues, and the second half starts with a worry as well — coach Scott Brooks and four players could take part in the team's first post-All-Star practice on Tuesday night because of issues involving protocols.
The four players involved were later cleared and did a workout after practice, Brooks said, adding that he hopes to be cleared in time to coach Wednesday.
"That's the plan," Brooks said. "Without getting into all the details, yeah, we hope so."