Why Did Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid Miss Sixers vs. Nuggets Game Saturday?

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both cleared protocol on Saturday. So, why did they miss the matchup against the Nuggets?
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The Philadelphia 76ers were in a tough spot on Saturday afternoon. Earlier this week, the entire roster outside of Furkan Korkmaz and Mike Scott was healthy and available to play. After Thursday night's events, that all changed drastically. 

Sixers guard Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 while in Brooklyn on Thursday. His test forced the entire team to remain quarantined in New York until past midnight on Saturday morning. At that point, the Sixers had ten players listed on the injury report ahead of their Saturday afternoon matchup against the Denver Nuggets.

76ers star center Joel Embiid was among the ten players included on the injury report as he was questionable for health and safety protocols related to COVID-19. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, wasn't listed at all.

Early on Saturday afternoon, the Sixers had the opportunity to clear three players from the injury report. Embiid, Paul Reed, and Danny Green were all listed as available before tip-off, giving the 76ers enough bodies for the NBA to avoid postponing the game.

However, a last-minute move almost forced the league to move the game after all, as Embiid and Simmons were both ruled out less than two hours before the game. Neither player tested positive for COVID, nor were they listed as injured on the injury report. So, what happened exactly? Sixers head coach Doc Rivers explained.

"[COVID] has nothing to do with it," Rivers said during his routine pregame press conference on Saturday in regards to Simmons and Embiid's absences. "They’re just not playing." According to Rivers, Simmons dealt with a minor knee issue in the game against the Nets on Thursday.

"Ben, in the Brooklyn game, had some knee stiffness, and we probably already knew after the game that he wouldn’t play tonight," Rivers claimed. "[As for Joel, he] started complaining about his back starting yesterday, we didn’t know if he was playing or not.”

Obviously, neither player appeared on the court or the bench during Saturday's loss to the Nuggets. Considering the unfortunate circumstances the 76ers were dealing with, it doesn't come as a surprise they had their two stars sit out of the game where their team had no depth on the bench.

At this point, it's unclear whether Simmons and/or Embiid will return by Monday to face the Atlanta Hawks on the road. If the situation remains the same, and the Sixers continue to miss more than half their roster, then there's a good chance Simmons and Embiid could very well end up sitting out once again until the team gets healthy.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_