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Joel Embiid becomes latest 76ers player to enter NBA COVID-19 protocol

The 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts to Bulls fans

The 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts to Bulls fans after hitting a 3-point shot late in the second half of the team's NBA game against the Bulls on Saturday in Chicago. Credit: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

PHILADELPHIA — It might have seemed a thing of the past this season, teams being struck by a COVID outbreak. But as the Knicks arrived in Philadelphia to take on the 76ers Monday night, they found a team struggling to field a team.

Joel Embiid was declared out Monday morning and entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, joining teammates Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe along with a staff member in quarantine.

All four players are believed to be vaccinated but tested positive. According to a league source, the Sixers were all subjected to rapid tests Monday to ensure the outbreak did not spread deeper into the roster.

The NBA just sent a memo in recent days recommending those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster shot two months after the initial dose. For those who received Moderna or Pfizer, the league, working with public health officials, announced the recommendation is for players and staff to receive a booster shot six months after completing the second dose.

"He’s not doing great," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said of Embiid. "He’s struggling with it. Similar to Tobias, so that’s all I can tell you. It’s a concern, obviously, because it’s four guys now. And a staff member. It clearly is a concern."

Rivers told reporters recently that Harris, who played at Half Hollow Hills West, has struggled with the virus, too.

"He’s doing OK but not great, honestly . . . It hit him for sure," Rivers said last week. "A lot of guys have had this and they are mad, like, ‘What the hell, I’m fine.’ Tobias is not in that category right now, I can tell you that."

Teams are expected to receive the booster now that the league has pushed it into official protocols.

"I’m pro booster. I was at Marquette — that’s a joke," Rivers said. "I’m still pro booster. I just think that if you can get it, you should get it. This is still out there. COVID is not over. And it’s still very much in play. And not just sports, even if it’s our job, but in life. So any good message we can send and doing the right thing. This is the first disease in a while that doesn’t have to do just with you. The reason this is still around, in my opinion, is that you’re responsible for others. Unfortunately, I don’t think we all understand that."

The Knicks have managed to navigate the pandemic better than most teams. Last season, just two players — Alec Burks and Derrick Rose — tested positive, while many teams had to cancel games or shut down their practice facility. This season, the entire team is vaccinated, though that obviously does not provide complete assurance of not losing a player.

"Yeah, I think for everyone," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It’s not just the Sixers. You look across the board in all of sports, I think it’s a big concern for everyone. I know our medical people have spoken to our team about how important it is to take all the precautions that are necessary. You try to do the best you can, but it’s serious."

New York Sports