Atlantic Notes: Melton, Embiid, C. Johnson, Barrett

Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton says a hit he took in a February 27 game against Boston caused his back to “finally [give] out,” writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Melton only appeared in two games from January 2 to February 22 after being diagnosed with a lumbar spine stress response. He played two full games after returning, but was knocked out of action in the first half against the Celtics.

On March 6, the Sixers announced that Melton had begun an “offloading” program to ease the stress on the back. According to Mizell, he was able to walk normally and sit in a chair during an annual chess event Friday at the team’s practice facility. Melton is scheduled to have his condition reevaluated in about a week.

“I think what I’m doing now is definitely going to help me with [the issue] not returning,” he said. “I think how I’m going about it, and the time I’m taking, I’ll be good.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers center Joel Embiid visited a doctor last week to have his progress checked in his recovery from meniscus surgery, tweets Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports. Coach Nick Nurse told reporters before tonight’s game that doctors are happy with the way Embiid is healing and he’s still expected to return before the end of the regular season.
  • Cameron Johnson may be in danger of becoming a bench player for the Nets after signing a four-year, $94.5MM extension last summer, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required). Johnson came off the bench again Wednesday as he returned to the lineup after missing three games with a right ankle sprain. He and Dorian Finney-Smith have split time at power forward this season, and Lewis expects interim coach Kevin Ollie to continue that pattern for the rest of the season. “Control what you can control,” Johnson said. “That’s what I always try to do, that’s what I pride myself on and just trying to contribute to the team in any way that I can. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me in my career, and it’s not any stranger than any other circumstances. But my job is to help this team win games, and that’s what I’m gonna do, whether I’m starting, coming off bench, playing 10 minutes or playing 40 minutes.”
  • The Raptors are expressing support for RJ Barrett while he’s away from the team mourning his brother’s death, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “RJ knows really well that we are here for him and that he can make a call and get anything that he needs,” coach Darko Rajaković said. “Sometimes it’s just a conversation. Sometimes it’s just getting in the gym and getting some shots and getting your thoughts off of it. (We’re) just making sure that everybody knows that we are here for (all the players), that we’re gonna help you in any way possible. The worst thing for anybody in that case is just to shut down and get in your own world. You’ve got to be able to ask for help and receive help and just have conversations.”
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