It remains unclear as to whether Markelle Fultz, the Philadelphia 76ers’ rookie guard, will play at all this season.
It seems increasingly unlikely that another Sixers rookie, guard/forward Ben Simmons, will play in next Sunday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
The Sixers, however, are playing some of their best ball of the season heading into Saturday’s home game against another hot team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
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Joel Embiid shrugged off a sore right ankle to generate 24 points and 16 rebounds as the Sixers (27-25) battered the New Orleans Pelicans 100-82 on Friday night.
Dario Saric also scored 24 points for Philadelphia, which led by as many as 35 en route to its third victory in four games.
Simmons had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, one night after he learned that he had been passed over as an All-Star injury replacement for a third time. Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker was instead chosen to replace the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who tore the ACL in his left knee Tuesday night against Milwaukee.
“I don’t really know what an All-Star is anymore,” Simmons told Philly.com on Friday. “I mean, if it was about win-lose, you picked (Miami Heat guard Goran) Dragic obviously and you pick Kemba, whose team is (four) wins under us. It is what it is, but my stats don’t lie.”
Simmons is averaging 16.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists. The latter two numbers lead all rookies, and he is second among first-year players in scoring.
Fultz, the top overall pick in last summer’s draft, has missed all but four games this season with a shoulder injury. While the team announced in a Jan. 2 news release that he had been “cleared to begin the final stage of his return-to-play program,” it remains uncertain as to whether he will see any action the rest of the way.
General manager Bryan Colangelo did not exactly clear things up when he discussed Fultz’s situation with reporters Friday.
“There’s always a chance that he’s going to be out there soon,” Colangelo said, “and there’s a chance that he’s not going to play this year.”
The Clippers (28-25) are 3-1 since trading star forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29. They’ve won five of their last six including a 108-95 victory over the Pistons in Detroit on Friday, a game in which Lou Williams notched 26 points for Los Angeles.
Griffin countered with 19, albeit on 7-of-19 shooting, while two of the players the Clippers acquired for him, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley, finished with 12 and 10, respectively.
Harris told reporters afterward that facing his old team was “like seeing your ex-girlfriend for the first time, with her new man. You’ve got a new girl.”
“A lot,” Harris added, “was put into, obviously, the trade, this game, so we wanted to come out and handle business.”
Clippers guard Austin Rivers, who missed the previous 18 games with a strained Achilles, returned Friday and scored 16 points. Milos Teodosic sat out with a sore right foot. His status for Saturday’s game is unclear.