The 2021 NBA All-Star Game got off to rough start before players even hit the floor.
Prior to Sunday night’s exhibition contest in Atlanta, the league announced Team Durant’s Joel Embiid and Team LeBron’s Ben Simmons had been ruled out in accordance with health and safety protocols. The 76ers stars also had their virtual press conferences canceled, so they were not available to answer questions and provide any clarity on the situation.
However, multiple reports surfaced Sunday and offered more details on what led to the NBA’s decision.
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Why are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons not playing in the All-Star Game?
At approximately 11 a.m. ET Sunday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Embiid and Simmons might not be eligible to play in the All-Star Game because they were exposed to “a likely COVID-19 positive individual before they arrived to Atlanta.” Charania added that the exposure occurred when Embiid and Simmons saw their personal barber. Both players traveled to Atlanta via private planes, isolated in their hotel rooms and had no exposure to other All-Stars, per multiple reports.
During his media availability, Sixers coach Doc Rivers, who is serving as the coach of Team Durant, told reporters the chances of Embiid and Simmons playing weren’t “looking great,” but he was still waiting for the NBA to determine what would happen next.
Shortly before noon on Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Embiid and Simmons would not participate in the All-Star Game, noting that additional COVID-19 testing on the barber confirmed a positive result. The NBA made it official with the following announcement:
Prior to traveling to Atlanta, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons had contact with an individual who is confirmed today to have tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, Embiid (Team Durant) and Simmons (Team LeBron) will not play in tonight’s NBA All-Star Game.
Participation for other All-Stars and members of the 76ers coaching staff in Atlanta is not affected because they were not exposed to the individual in Philadelphia.
Will the NBA replace Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the All-Star Game?
There are no plans to name replacements for Embiid and Simmons, according to Wojnarowski. That’s not much of a surprise considering the NBA’s announcement came only hours before the All-Star Game was scheduled to tip off.
Rivers selected Pelicans star Zion Williamson to take Embiid’s place in the starting lineup for Team Durant.
How long are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons out?
It’s unclear if Embiid and Simmons will be forced to miss multiple games following the All-Star break. As of Sunday night, there had been no updates on their conditions.
The Sixers face a stretch of five games in seven days when the regular season resumes.
|March 11||at Bulls|
|March 12||at Wizards|
|March 14||vs. Spurs|
|March 16||vs. Knicks|
|March 17||vs. Bucks|