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Nets vs. 76ers Friday NBA injury report, spread, odds: Ben Simmons or Kyrie Irving -- who plays first this season? Joel Embiid questionable

No Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons as the Nets visit the 76ers on Friday. Joel Embiid is questionable but fully expected to play.
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The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets were the top two teams in the Eastern Conference last regular season and both are NBA title contenders. That should be the storyline of their marquee matchup Friday night in the 76ers' home opener. Instead, all the chatter is about a missing multiple-time All-Star on both sides: Kyrie Irving of the Nets and Ben Simmons of the 76ers. Neither will play Friday and it's frankly not clear when either will at all. Brooklyn is a short favorite at Caesars Sportsbook with Sixers MVP candidate Joel Embiid listed questionable. Click here for model picks. 

Irving has no issues with the Nets, simply being forced to take the COVID vaccine. While Irving could have played on the road this season without the vaccine, he wouldn't have been allowed to play at home due to a New York City mandate. The Nets told Irving to stay away regardless until he gets the vaccine or the mandate is rescinded.

It was just one game, but the Nets appeared to miss Irving quite a bit Tuesday as they were outclassed 127-104 at Milwaukee. Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds, but the Nets were outscored by 20 points with him on the court. James Harden had 20 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, but the Nets were also outscored by 20 when he was on the court.

Simmons is vaccinated but wants out of Philadelphia in the worst way. The drama only deepened early this week when Simmons refused to participate in a practice drill Tuesday and was sent home by Coach Doc Rivers and suspended one game. In theory, then, Simmons could have debuted Friday – that would have been REALLY interesting to hear the Philly fans' reactions – but Simmons did not take part in a scheduled individual workout Thursday for "back tightness."

He will not play Friday or for the foreseeable future but not due to the back. Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, reportedly has told Sixers officials that Simmons isn't mentally prepared to play yet. Simmons was to meet with team officials again Friday about his future.

There have been rumors around the league that the only reason Simmons reported to the team recently was to get paid his salary but that he wouldn't actually play due to random injury. Early last season, Harden loafed around for the Rockets while he demanded for a trade and actually got it to the Nets.

Sixers boss Daryl Morey is not backing down in this standoff: "You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not, this could take four years," he said Thursday. "We're in the prime of Joel (Embiid)'s career. This is not a day-to-day thing. Every day, we are going to expect Ben to be back here, or we trade him for a difference-maker." The media has salivated over a possible Irving-for-Simmons trade, but the 76ers have no interest.

Philadelphia won in New Orleans, 117-97, on Wednesday without Simmons. Tyrese Maxey took his spot in the starting lineup and had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The better the Sixers and Maxey play without Simmons, the more leverage he loses (if he even has any).

Embiid had 22 points in 26 minutes in the opener and is listed as questionable on the NBA's official injury report for this one, but expect him to be listed as questionable before every game. Not even kidding. Yes, he will miss a few here and there, but not the home opener. Guard Shake Milton will miss his second straight game Friday due to injury. The Sixers have won their past five at home vs. the Nets.

Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who plays in an NBA game first this season?

  • Ben Simmons -1500
  • Kyrie Irving +700

Via SportsLine oddsmakers: How many games will Kyrie Irving play for the Nets this season?

  • Over 23.5 -110
  • Under 23.5 -110

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