10:48am: The barber has returned a second positive test, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The final decision will be up to the NBA, but it appears likely that Embiid and Simmons will be held out of tonight’s game.
10:13am: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons may be forced to miss tonight’s All-Star Game because of contact tracing, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Both players were exposed to a person who likely has COVID-19 before they arrived in Atlanta, sources tell Charania.
The exposure involves the players’ personal barber, who tested positive for the virus and will take another test, Charania adds (via Twitter). Embiid and Simmons flew to Atlanta on private planes and had no contact with other players or anyone else in the bubble atmosphere surrounding the game.
The Sixers teammates will do media sessions from their rooms prior to the game, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). A decision on whether they will play will be made once the barber’s condition is more certain.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers, who will coach Team Durant, confirms the reports and tells Marc Stein of The New York Times that “it’s not looking great” for Embiid and Simmons to participate (Twitter link). Both players are currently isolated in their hotel rooms. Rivers is waiting for guidance from the league and isn’t sure if Embiid and Simmons will have to remain in Atlanta if they are not permitted to play, adds Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).
“I would feel more for them if they had COVID,” Rivers said. “They get to make the team still, and they’re on the team … But you want to play and them being in a jersey.” (Twitter link from Mark Medina of USA Today)
Embiid is a member of Team Durant, while Simmons was drafted by Team LeBron, so both teams will have 11 players if the two 76ers stars can’t participate.
Both players are having exceptional seasons for the Sixers, who lead the East with a 20-12 record. Embiid is among the mid-season favorites for MVP, averaging 30.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks through 30 games. Simmons averages 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per night and is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders.
It’s not clear how the potential exposure to the virus will affect their availability once the season resumes. Philadelphia doesn’t play again until Thursday night, and both players may be required to quarantine if the barber’s positive test is confirmed.