December 04, 2019
Josh Richardson will miss another game with tightness in his right hamstring, the Sixers announced on Wednesday afternoon. Richardson has participated in individualized workouts over the last couple days of practice, in addition to receiving daily treatment on the hamstring, but the Sixers are taking the long view with Richardson's injury.
"With a soft tissue injury like the hamstring, we are taking a conservative approach to ensure we can deliver him deep into the season," a team spokesman said at practice on Wednesday.
The Sixers have said the same things over and over again over the last week as it relates to Richardson's hamstring issue. They have avoided offering a timeline for Richardson when asked, and have said he has been progressing steadily since exiting their win over the Sacramento Kings last Wednesday.
"With the soft-tissue stuff like a hamstring, especially in December, we're going to be precautionary about it," a team spokesman said before Saturday's win over the Pacers. "We're hopeful he'll make a return here in the next couple of games."
That hope, evidently, has not matched the progress Richardson has shown during these workouts. Either that or the Sixers aren't especially concerned with the Washington Wizards, and figure they can get by without him for another game. The truth is likely a combination of both, and I have heard nothing to suggest Richardson's issue is worth ringing alarm bells over.
(However, to the team's point, soft-tissue injuries are tough to deal with. You can rest and recuperate for a time that feels "long enough" only to make one wrong step, one hard plant and feel a twinge that you weren't expecting, setting you back for weeks. That's the sort of situation the Sixers want to avoid, and you're not going to hear me ripping them for taking the long view.)
They have done just fine over the last week or so without him, with Furkan Korkmaz playing the spot-starter role and Matisse Thybulle reemerging as a contributor off of the bench. Thursday's starting lineup against the Wizards now has a bit of intrigue — will Brett Brown go back to Korkmaz once again, or will he try to ride the hot hand with Thybulle to try to inspire more confidence from the rookie?
Regardless of who starts, the Sixers' biggest challenge against Washington on Thursday night will be making sure they don't get sucked into the sort of game the Wizards like to play. They have been horrific on defense this season, dead last in defensive efficiency by almost two full points. But they have been a surprisingly good team on offense this season, and the Wizards run like the wind, leading the league in pace through the first quarter of the season.
That is perhaps another reason to keep Richardson on the shelf. And Brown's concern heading in is how they can do their best job of slowing down Washington and playing a game in their style, rather than the opponent's.
"It's very connected to turnovers," Brown said Wednesday. "I think that it challenges some of the rules with offensive rebounding, it's all very much interconnected. I think we're going to see quite a bit of zone, so that's kind of a launching pad to get out and [run], and they are a free-flowing, small-ball team even with the injury to [Moe Wagner] they have, it exacerbates it. It's all kind of connected, and I hope to maintain who we are. I would be disappointed if we just feel like we can't guard them and we got to go apples to apples, I would be disappointed to do that."
They should be able to do that with their full assortment of players minus Richardson. Joel Embiid did not participate in Philadelphia's practice on Wednesday as part of his season-long plan, but he still participated in an "individualized program" during practice, and the team expects him to be available for Thursday's game against the Wizards.
There are downsides to missing members of the starting lineup for practices and games alike, but that doesn't mean it's all bad. The Sixers play with distinct identities depending on the personnel on the floor, and on a day without Embiid, the Sixers can lean into their run-and-gun offense a bit more than usual, which helps them prepare for minutes with Ben Simmons and Al Horford leading the way.
But the Sixers, who used to run whenever possible in the days before they had this group, are after a different sort of tempo basketball these days.
"My version of pace nowadays is after they double team Joel in the post, now let's talk about pass and pace, bam, bam, bam. When you're receiving it, you're in a 0.5 mode, you can't receive it and not have a plan," Brown said Wednesday. "Pace to me lately is coming out of the post. Once Joel passes, now what?...we are trying to play through him a lot, we're trying to get him posting more than floating, screen-and-rolling more than popping, and give him the ball. When you look at the numbers with him as a back-to-the-basket player, he's as good as anybody in the NBA for efficiency, scoring. And so shame on us for not tapping into that."
"It's a different conversation when maybe Ben's trying to post or Tobias. Joel is still king, and we're trying to play through him. You start subbing and Ben is the point guard and Al is the five man, and that's Ben's world where it's a track meet and Al trailing into it. They're two environments that are very distinct."
Styles make fights, as they say, so we'll see who wins the battle for the soul of the game in D.C. on Thursday.
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