PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid swished a three from the top of the arc and stretched his arms toward a wildly cheering crowd.
The roar of the fans in another 76ers’ victory has been muted, and the NBA is on hold after it suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive with the coronavirus yesterday.
“It’s important that the fans, players, coaching staff, our staff here at the Sixers remain healthy and we do everything we can,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said. “But we believe in the leadership of the league.”
Embiid had 30 points and 14 rebounds in his return from a sprained left shoulder, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 124-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons yesterday.
The players had just hit the locker room when news of the suspended season broke and they were not made available to the media.
Coach Brett Brown defended the decision to play the game – the 76ers announced a sellout crowd of 20,172 – in the wake of the virus that has spoiled sports around the globe.
“The instruction was to come in and play the game,” Brown said. “If you look at the proactive measures our club has taken, and that the league has taken, I think they should be applauded. It’s a sensitive issue, obviously. It must be a very serious situation for the league to make the decision that they have made. We look forward to learning more over the next few hours, really.”
The NBA’s break made Embiid’s return from a five-game absence an afterthought for the Sixers.
All-Star guard Ben Simmons will miss at least three more weeks with nerve issues in his lower back. Former Sixers star, and current Miami Heat guard, Jimmy Butler popped off at Brown on a podcast and criticised the way the Sixers coach used him in the postseason. And, the Sixers and Pistons played in front the last game with fans at the Wells Fargo Center for an undetermined time.
Brown didn’t need a quiet arena to hear the reverberation throughout Philly when Butler went on former Sixers teammate JJ Redick’s podcast and ripped his coaching style. Butler, who played the final 55 games of last season with the Sixers, said, “On any given day, me as a person, as a player, I didn’t know who the (expletive) was in charge. I think that was my biggest thing.”
Butler said players watched film sessions in silence and became peeved when he said he learned the organisation wanted Brown to “control” the All-Star guard. Butler decided not to return to the Sixers and landed in Miami on a sign-and-trade deal.
“I heard about, I understand what he’s saying,” Brown said. “I have not listened to it and I doubt I will.”