Doc Rivers on Joel Embiid, James Harden injury issues: 76ers will ‘do whatever we can to be healthy’
With the Philadelphia 76ers leading 76-48 at halftime against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, they decided not to play Joel Embiid in the second half. The MVP candidate was dealing with “very mild” right calf tightness, coach Doc Rivers told reporters, and sat out as a precautionary measure.
Rivers said that the Sixers “thought it was the right thing to do,” but he is “not concerned” about Embiid’s calf. Rivers expects Embiid to play when the Sixers visit the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
“We had a lead, felt like we could hold it,” Rivers said. “And whenever you hear ‘calf,’ you just say, ‘That’s it.'”
James Harden didn’t play at all on Wednesday because of left Achilles soreness. Rivers expects Harden to play against Golden State, but did not guarantee it. With only 10 games left in the regular season, Philadelphia is going to be cautious when it comes to injuries.
“We don’t want him playing if it’s sore,” Rivers said. “So if it’s sore enough, we still won’t play him on Friday. We’re at that point. Like if it was probably earlier in the year, everybody still plays. We’ve gone in the playoffs two years in a row with injuries. And we all learned, we all know you don’t win in the playoffs if your key guys aren’t healthy. Period. So we’re going to do whatever we can to be healthy.”
Embiid told reporters that he hurt his calf during Monday’s double-overtime loss against Chicago, and felt discomfort in the first half on Wednesday, via ESPN. He got treatment in the second half, and, echoing Rivers, said that this was a precautionary move and the postseason is the top priority.
“We’ve already clinched the playoffs, it’s all about making sure we’re going to be healthy for them,” Embiid said.
There is, however, incentive for Embiid and Harden to play down the stretch. At 49-23, the Sixers are three games behind the first-place Milwaukee Bucks and just half a game behind the 50-23 Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is difficult, and it includes games against both Boston and Milwaukee in early April.
After the Warriors game on Friday, the Sixers visit Phoenix on Saturday and Denver on Monday before returning home to host Dallas next Wednesday.