The NBA fined the Philadelphia 76ers $25,000 on Monday for violating the league’s injury reporting rules.
After Ben Simmons wasn’t on the injury report Friday, when Philadelphia had half its team in the NBA’s health and safety protocols after Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 the day before, the Sixers listed him as out for their game Saturday afternoon against the Denver Nuggets with swelling in his left knee.
Simmons remained out of the lineup for their game Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks with the same injury.
League injury reporting rules prohibit players from having late, dramatic shifts in availability — such as going from not listed to out, as Simmons did, or vice versa.
Before the game Saturday, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said the team knew after their loss Thursday in Brooklyn that Simmons wouldn’t be available.
“Ben, in the Brooklyn game, had some knee stiffness, and so we almost probably knew after the game that he wouldn’t play tonight,” Rivers said.
Rivers said ahead of Monday’s game that he doesn’t believe Simmons’ injury will be a long-term issue and hopes he will play Tuesday against the Miami Heat.
“This early in the season, we’re just trying to go with more safe-than-sorry measures right now,” Rivers said.
Joel Embiid (back stiffness) and Mike Scott (knee contusion), who both missed Saturday’s game, played Monday in Atlanta. With Embiid and Scott, Philadelphia had nine available players — one more than the eight required to play.
Eight Sixers remained out: five (Curry, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and Vincent Poirier) because of health and safety protocols; Simmons because of his knee; Terrance Ferguson for personal reasons; and Furkan Korkmaz, who is out with an adductor strain.
The Sixers got off to a nice start Monday, taking a 32-28 lead after the first quarter thanks to 16 points from Embiid. But, as the game wore on, the Hawks took control, outscoring the Sixers by a combined 69-33 over the second and third quarters behind star guard Trae Young (26 points and eight assists) to win 112-94 and snap a four-game losing streak.
Rivers was asked after the game how he can keep pushing forward when the Sixers are facing more games with a depleted roster, and he said he and his players have little choice but to do so.
“For the most part, you know, all of our starters are out,” he said. “No one’s gonna feel sorry for us. We got to try to win these games. We’re in a tough spot with COVID. Not a lot we can do with it. I have a sneaking feeling that there’s gonna be a lot of teams with this problem. Right now, we’re getting hit with it.”
The Sixers are set to face another team that’s being hit, as Philadelphia is scheduled to play the Miami Heat on Tuesday and Thursday. The Heat announced Monday that eight players — including arguably their three best in Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic — are out due to league health and safety protocols.
Rivers said it’s possible the Sixers players who are out because of contact tracing would be available for the scheduled Thursday game against the Heat.
But while Philadelphia currently finds itself severely short-handed, Rivers said he wasn’t in favor of the possibility of expanding rosters, for the simple reason that adding end-of-the-bench players won’t replace the contributions of guys such as Simmons or Harris.
“I probably would not be on that side,” Rivers said. “I think a lot of people would be. I don’t know if that increases your competitive advantage at all, when you’re talking about increasing your roster size with guys that aren’t even in the league yet. So, I don’t know what that does, other than it does do this: It definitely would allow you to play the games. But let’s just be honest: If you’re missing your stars or your key guys, you can have a roster size of 40 — it’s not gonna make a big difference. You want your key guys to play in every game, and some of the fans for that matter. So that, to me, is the key.”
Asked for anything he could take away from Monday’s loss, Rivers had a joke ready to go.
“We got out of it healthy,” he said. “I guess that’s the positive tonight.
“And we probably get to see the second half of the Alabama game.”