Zhaire Smith works at Sixers six months after Jones fracture surgery



The news of an injury to Joel Embiid is not what the Sixers fans wanted to see come out of the break from the All-Star game.

The left knee pain at the All-Star center may seem alarming, but his head coach downplayed it at the team's practice center on Wednesday, calling it tendonitis. (see the story).

Brett Brown mentioned that Embiid was struggling with a knee problem "for a few weeks" and that his role in the star game had not affected his injury.

"It's a natural dot connector and you should not think it has anything to do with it," Brown said at the team's practice center. "In the end, nobody needs to read anything here. He is an NBA athlete with knee pain, he has an MRI and we should all move on.

"We will obviously miss him, playing well, but it is not something that is not quite meant to keep him ready and particularly ready when it matters most at the end of the year."

But with Embiid missing for at least a week, Brown and his company have to leave without him.

This initially means more minutes for fan favorite Boban Marjanovic. Marjanovic certainly brings something to the table with its massive frame, its effective game around the basket and its filtering and rolling capabilities. Defense will be the problem when asked to cover more than five years.

That's where rookie Jonah Bolden could come in. Bolden lost the role of a backup center without being responsible for it. He was playing well, protecting the rim with fast defenders and occasionally striking three.

"You would think that Jonah was lucky enough to get some of his time back from the court he had before the trade," Brown said. "It's in my mind, I had it in my second team today. It will be nice to see him again. "

Besides missing a MVP player, the biggest disappointment is that the Sixers will not be able to further develop the chemistry of their new group of five. With the impending playoffs, it is more important that this unit plays at its peak than the victories and defeats.

There are more ambitious goals ahead for the last 24 regular season games.

"I've been to different teams where the goal is to be in playoffs," said Tobias Harris. "Here, the goal is to win in the playoffs and win big. I think we would not do ourselves a favor if we simply say, let's get out of the first round. We are trying to have a championship here.

It will be up to Harris and the other runners to carry a greater share of this charge in the absence of Embiid. Perhaps the player who will bear this burden is Jimmy Butler.

Butler can score on all three levels and create his own shot better than any Sixers player without Embiid. Butler recorded consecutive performances of 38 points in early December. One of these games was with Embiid fighting mightily in Toronto and the other was with Embiid set apart in Detroit.

Although he does not change his approach with Embiid, he knows what is at stake in general.

"I'm going down the same road," Butler said. "It's time to pick it up a bit. This is the last stretch. I'm ready, man. My mind, my body. I am relaxed, calm and collected, ready to win games. "

Once Embiid's corps is ready, the Sixers will look to take another step towards their championship goals.

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