Jan. 6—What's up, peeps?

Here we go, again. By now, some of y'all probably already know that Joel Embiid will miss his second game with soreness in left foot when the 76ers host the Chicago Bulls Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The bad part about this injury is the Sixers (23-14) were finally back to being healthy. That thought was they were going to use their month to finally see how they played with their full complement of key players.

Instead, they've still only played six games with their season-opening starting lineup. And Friday's matchup against the Bulls (17-21) will be their 38th game of the season. The halfway point of the season is Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder at The Center.

Luckily for the Sixers, they won't have a murderous row slate of games coming up. After facing the Bulls, they'll have a pair of games against the Detroit Pistons before entertaining the Thunder (16-22). The Sixers will play the Pistons (11-30) Sunday afternoon in Detroit before hosting them Tuesday night.

We'll learn if the Eastern Conference's fifth-place Sixers can make up ground on the fourth-place Cleveland Cavaliers during this stretch against three losing teams.

But in the meantime, I'll answer a few of your questions.

Missed out on the party? No worries. Submit questions for next time by tweeting @PompeyOnSixers with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.

Q: When will Glenn Rivers be fired? — @sdot111

KP: Thanks for keeping it real with your-straight-to-the-point question, Sean. I realize there's a lot of people in the Sixers' fanbase that have wanted Rivers fired since the team opened the season with three consecutive losses. But the long stretches without Tyrese Maxey and James Harden guarantees that he'll keep his job at least through the season.

Think about what I mentioned earlier: The season-opening starting lineup has only been intact for six games out of 37, thus far. And that number is only going to grow as long as Embiid remains sidelined. It's hard to fire a coach when his three best players — Embiid (nine), Harden (15) and Maxey (19) — combined to miss 43 games.

Despite that, the Sixers are 1 1/2 games out of second place. I realize things look discombobulated at times with the blown leads, mounting turnovers, lack of adjustments and questionable lineups. But the Sixers have managed to remain competitive amid mounting injuries. It's hard to ax the coach when that happens.

Now, I do think a firing could be considered should the Sixers suffer another early postseason exit.

Q: The James Harden, the new one whose turnovers are more frequent and can't blow by defenders, will he be a difference maker in the playoffs? — @jackhorantheman

KP: I appreciate you asking a question, Jack. I think we will be lying to ourselves if we said Harden would transform back to the player he was while winning the 2018 MVP and three scoring titles with the Houston Rockets.

Due to the things you just mentioned, Harden would have to be a different type of difference maker. Kind of like how he played against the Toronto Raptors in the opening round of last season's NBA playoffs.

In the first two games, the Raptors were focused on trying to stop Embiid and Harden, the Sixers' All-NBA tandem, from scoring. That tactic didn't pay off as Harden's court awareness and passing skills enabled Maxey and Tobias Harris to torch them.

Maxey averaged 30.5 points on 68.8% shooting — including 57.1% on three-pointers — while roaming freely in those games. Meanwhile, Harris averaged 23.0 points on 64% shooting while making 75% off his three-pointers.

As for Harden, the three-time scoring champion averaged 18.0 points and 10.0 assists, which rated as second in the playoffs to Chris Paul, in those two games.

Now, the Raptors did make adjustments, looking to force Harden to become more of a scorer than a facilitator. He struggled at times because of lack of explosivenes and an inconsistent shot.

But if he's able to make some shots just to keep defenders honest, I think he could be a difference maker. Again, he's definitely going to have to make some shots, because, if not, opponents are going to cut off his passing lanes and force him to beat them.

Harden is, however, shooting better than last season. He's shooting 43.4% from the field, including making 36.6% from the beyond the three-point. Harden shot 41.0% last season with the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets, including making 33.0% of his threes. His scoring and assists averages are close. Harden is averaging 22.3 points and 10.8 assists compared to 22.0 and 10.3 last season.

Q: When do you think they will fill the open roster spot they have? — @Kneesh29

KP: Thanks for the question, Jeffrey. I think ideally that would be something that would remain open at least until the trade deadline on Feb. 9. Keeping it open gives the Sixers a lot of flexibility. I would keep it open until the last possible moment.

They have the option of taking back an extra player in a trade. They could use it to take a longer look at someone. They could also pick up someone in the buyout market without having to create a roster spot. The Sixers will have plenty of options by keeping it open. The thing you don't want to do is rush to sign someone only to not have a roster spot available if the person you really want becomes available.


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