Sixers’ health issues come at critical point in season

Alex Starkman, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Today was not exactly ideal for the Sixers and their often-questioned medical staff.

Joel Embiid has been dealing with a sore left knee and has been advised to sit out at least a week. Turkish sharpshooter Furkan Korkmaz has a torn meniscus. And to top off the day, the team does not expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play this season, but hopes he can play for the G League's Delaware Blue Coats at some point. 

To start, let's begin in order of importance and work our way down.  

Per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, head coach Brett Brown announced earlier today that Embiid underwent an MRI yesterday and there was no structural damage determined. To aid his soreness, Embiid will undergo physical therapy and pain management treatment.

After the upcoming seven-day period, the MVP hopeful will be re-evaluated. Brown was quick to dismiss the likelihood that Embiid’s 23-minute run in this past Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game caused the soreness, and that the apparent tendonitis is “quite common.”

However, the Sixers will face some terrific big men in some important upcoming games, which will all take place in the next five days. 

They face Hassan Whiteside and the Heat, Jusuf Nurkic and the Blazers in a matinee in South Philadelphia on Saturday and the always dangerous Anthony Davis and the Pelicans next Monday in New Orleans. 

Staying optimistic, the setback doesn't seem that severe in the grand scheme of things, and may serve as a short rest for Embiid in order to gear up for the stretch run into the playoffs.

The most disappointing truth in all this is that it delays the opportunities of the Sixers' new starting five, with new edition Tobias Harris, to play with each other and to work out their struggles with spacing and pick and roll sets.

Once Embiid can get back on the court, the team will have 21 or 22 games to sort out these glaring problems if, in fact, the team is serious about contending for an Eastern Conference title. 

Crisis No.1 averted. Sort of. 

First reported by NBC Philadelphia's Serena Winters earlier today, it came to the surface that the Sixers' Turkish reserve Furkan Korkmaz's right knee injury occurred in last week's loss at home against the Celtics. As per Winters, surgery is an option and further details are to be explained. 

This leaves the Sixers' bench rotation scarce and down one less shooter and three-point threat to attack opponent's second units. This could potentially lead to more playing time for their young and inexperienced players, namely, Jonah Bolden. 

Crisis No. 2 is not typically good, but could define various reserve roles for the new acquisitions for the inevitable playoff push. 

And finally, Brett Brown rounded up the day of medical misery by explaining that the team does not expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play for the squad this season and only possibly suit up for the Blue Coats.

Smith attended Wednesday's practice, playing at, according to Brown, 50 or 60 percent. Brown was pleased with the efforts and athleticism of the Texas Tech swing-man and 16th overall pick in last summer's NBA Draft. 

Brown was also encouraged with the comradery being created between Smith and his teammates, which was demonstrated by Jimmy Butler sporting a Sixers' No. 8 Smith practice jersey earlier Wednesday. 

Already sidelined and dealing with a Jones fracture in his left foot, few people truly expected Smith to contribute at 100 percent. And after dealing with the effects of an allergy from something he had eaten in September, the news of him not playing this season are understandable, but, very common in Sixers' first round picks lately. 

Albeit disappointing, Smith, in all likelihood, will be able to play next season and should complement an already star-studded offensive cast, should the present roster take court again in the 2019-20 campaign. 

Crisis No. 3 is unlucky, but understandable.

As these three medical setbacks bestow upon an already jumbled roster, the most important thing, for their most important player, is that Embiid is only expected to be out a week. Korkmaz's injury is troubling in that the bench will be down a player who has contributed at times. 

Smith's injury-plagued first year can certainly be rectified next season, and most likely will be.

The uphill battle, an Embiid-less trek at that, starts tomorrow night at home against the Heat at the Center. Let's see what they're made of, shall we?