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December 15, 2021

Sixers' Georges Niang latest player to enter NBA health and safety protocol

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Sixers-Pistons-Georges-Niang-1_012821_Kate_Frese7.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Sixers forward Georges Niang.

Sixers forward Georges Niang is the latest player to enter the NBA's health and safety protocol, adding to an extensive Sixers injury report and a growing list of players around the league who are on the sideline due to COVID-19.

Ahead of Wednesday night's game against the Heat, the Sixers have the following players either out or in some form of doubt for the game (players in italics are questionable, players in bold are out):

  1. Joel Embiid, rib  soreness
  2. Seth Curry, shoulder soreness
  3. Furkan Korkmaz, non-COVID illness
  4. Ben Simmons, personal reasons
  5. Georges Niang, health and safety protocol
  6. Jaden Springer, concussion protocol
  7. Grant Riller, right shoulder; soreness 

As of this writing, two-way player Aaron Henry and backup big Paul Reed are also on assignment with the club's G League team, though in theory that could change if the Sixers need extra bodies to give it a go.

Niang's specific absence does complicate things a bit for the Sixers, who lack size even when they have a healthy lineup to put on the floor. It will likely necessitate sliding guys up the lineup in order to compensate, leaving someone like Matisse Thybulle to potentially guard fours, which would have a domino effect on the responsibilities Philadelphia's defensively-challenged guards will pick up.

The only good news for Philadelphia is that both of their next two opponents are dealing with health issues of their own. In Wednesday night's game vs. Miami, the Heat will be without Bam Adebayo (thumb surgery), Jimmy Butler (tailbone), Markieff Morris (neck), Caleb Martin (health and safety protocol), Victor Oladipo (knee), and Tyler Herro (quad), with that group representing a huge chunk of their normal rotation.

Philadelphia's back-to-back against Brooklyn may be a simple war of attrition. The Nets have seven players currently in the protocol: James Harden, Bruce Brown, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson, DeAndre Bembry, and Jevon Carter, with Brown and Harden scratched from the lineup hours before an undermanned Nets team beat the Raptors on Tuesday night. Kevin Durant remains, but Durant plus a team of rookies is a lot less formidable than the group they'd typically put on the floor.

All of those noteworthy absences for their next two opponents likely won't matter if the Sixers can't get Embiid and/or Curry back on the floor, with Philadelphia looking rudderless in their Monday night loss to the Grizzlies without that duo. The Sixers have the distinction of actually being on the positive side of the league's COVID outbreak right now (at least for the time being) with only one player currently in the health and safety protocol, and as demented as it is to think like this, they need to take advantage of this stretch to stack a few easy wins and pull themselves up in the standings after going into a tailspin as a result of their previous COVID outbreak.

Of course, there are now real questions about how long the league can withstand this at the rate COVID is going through the league, with the league already postponing multiple games this week as a result of exposure to the virus. The league likely has its eyes on its flagship Christmas Day schedule, but big-name stars are already in jeopardy of missing those games, including reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was placed in the protocols on Tuesday.

Niang, like the rest of the players around the league dealing with this issue, now has to sit out for either a minimum of 10 days or return after registering two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart. Even as the product takes a severe hit, time marches on for everyone else. 

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