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February 22, 2017

Sixers practice: Embiid doubtful for weekend while Okafor readies for trade deadline

After six days off for the NBA All-Star break, the Sixers were back at their practice facility on Wednesday afternoon in Camden, officially starting preparation for the final third of their season. Quite a bit has happened since the team played in Boston last Wednesday, and today there were two obvious storylines: injuries and the NBA Trade Deadline.

Simmons and Embiid medical update

Since the Sixers got into a little bit of trouble last week for their injury reporting, let’s start by spelling out exactly what we were told about Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid:

     • Simmons went through individualized work on Wednesday, and as everybody knows, he will get a CT scan on his right foot tomorrow. After that, the doctors and Sixers medical staff will “take their time to review the results, confer, and then provide [the team] with the best guidance moving forward.”

     • Embiid was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, but he’s still listed as doubtful for this weekend’s games against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks with the bone bruise/slightly torn meniscus in that left knee. The team’s doctors will review Embiid’s progress today over the next 24 hours.

The Sixers also said that today’s practice wasn’t intense, but it’s worth noting Embiid looked pretty darn good to me. The 7’2” center worked up a pretty good sweat, was dunking consistently with little hesitation, and he even talked his usual brand of smack in a one-on-one game with Dario Saric after practice. We have been told this injury is mostly about how the knee responds the day after a workout, but see for yourself how JoJo is moving:

Brett Brown said that Embiid looked “fluid.” He also appreciated how Embiid, who the Sixers have indicated will play again the season, has responded to the team holding him out.

“I say this respectfully, he’s a maverick,” Brown said. “He’s defiant, and great players have that quality. He’s compliant and he understands big picture stuff, but he doesn’t take that type of news well at all. And we should all hear that with an element of, ‘Well, that’s good.’”

Embiid, who had a busy weekend in New Orleans (including some fine-tuning his game), said that he didn’t feel any swelling on Wednesday. Thursday and then Friday could prove to be the big test.

“I say this respectfully, he’s a maverick. He’s defiant, and great players have that quality. He’s compliant and he understands big picture stuff, but he doesn’t take that type of news well at all."

“Tomorrow is going to be a big day,” Embiid said. “We’re going to go really hard in practice so we’re going to see how it reacts.”

When it comes to Simmons, it’s clear that he is still doing much less than Embiid. After practice, the No. 1 overall pick took catch-and-shoot jumpers with Gerald Henderson and Ersan Ilyasova.

For now, Simmons is still limited to 5-on-0 work (“scripting”) in practice. Brown indicated that the team will have a better idea of how to move forward with the 6’10” point forward after Thursday’s CT scan.

“He looked great in training camp, I thought he was our best player,” Embiid said of Simmons at one point.

Okafor dealing with trade speculation

After being held out for a couple of games before the break, Jahlil Okafor knows the deal. His name has been in trade rumors aplenty, and the second-year center is very aware that he could be on the move by the deadline. Wednesday’s session might end up as his last practice in a Sixers uniform.

“Just waiting to see what happens, keeping my phone on,” Okafor said. “Obviously know the deadline is coming up tomorrow, and I’m one of the guys who can potentially be traded.”

Okafor, who indicated that he wouldn’t be upset if a trade didn’t happen before Thursday’s 3:00 p.m. deadline, has handled the tough situation very professionally. He cited open communication between himself and the organization as the driving factor there.

“I’ll give a ton of credit to my teammates, our coaches, Bryan [Colangelo],” Okafor said. “They’re all great with communicating with me, I’m not left in the dark so I’m pretty comfortable knowing what my situation is. Just open dialogue, and that’s helped me out a ton.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann