Philadelphia 76ers stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are ineligible to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game due to contact tracing from exposure to a potential COVID-19 positive individual prior to arriving in Atlanta, the league announced in a statement.
The exposure occurred from the duo’s personal barber who had an inconclusive test followed by two positive tests, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.
“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,” the league said in a statement.
Both Simmons and Embiid traveled by themselves on private planes, in accordance with the league’s quarantine policies, for the All-Star Game, and had no exposure to other players or people in the Atlanta bubble.
New Orleans’ Zion Williamson will start in Embiid’s place, the league said.
Speaking to reporters via Zoom late Sunday morning from Atlanta, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said “it’s not looking great” for Simmons and Embiid.
Embiid, who is an MVP candidate this season, had been picked by Kevin Durant and is a starter for “Team Durant,” while LeBron James selected Simmons. It’s the fourth All-Star selection for Embiid and the third for Simmons.
On Saturday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended the league’s decision to hold an abbreviated All-Star Weekend amid a pandemic.
“It’s a bit lonely as the commissioner,” Silver said. “To the extent their players are saying we’d rather not play, often the teams reflect those same sentiments. It’s my job to look out for the overall interest of the league. As I said earlier, I haven’t made it a secret out of the fact that economic interests are a factor.
“I’ll add, though, when I say ‘economic interests are a factor,’ it’s less to do with the economics of one Sunday night on TNT in the United States. It has more to do with the larger brand value of the NBA. The fact this is our number one fan engagement event of the year. Because we went forward with All-Star, not only did roughly 100 million people vote for the All-Stars on a global basis, but based on past ratings, well over 100 million people will watch the game and the ancillary competitions. We’ll have over a billion social media views and engagements.”
Contributing: Mark Medina