De'Anthony Melton

Melton plans to give it another go, help Sixers turn around series vs. Knicks

Melton intends to play a part in the Sixers' first-round playoff series.

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CAMDEN, N.J. — De’Anthony Melton is planning to give it another go.

After a regular season derailed by a recurring lumbar spine injury, the Sixers’ 25-year-old combo guard again intends to play. 

“He practiced today,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said early Wednesday afternoon. “I believe he’s going to be available tomorrow — I believe. He’s probably questionable, but there’s a chance that he can possibly be available.” 

Melton had a more positive slant on his status for Game 3 of the Sixers’ first-round playoff series vs. the Knicks at Wells Fargo Center.

“Yesterday I was able to get up and down, get some live action in, so that was really good for my body,” he said. “Today I went through practice. So I’m feeling good. I’m ready for the game tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes.” 

The Sixers did later officially list Melton as questionable. Joel Embiid (left knee injury recovery) received the same designation.

Melton has only played 111 total minutes this calendar year. He’s made seven appearances in 2024 and experienced setbacks following three separate attempts to return. His last game was a five-minute outing in the Sixers’ April 12 win over the Magic. 

“It’s more so the next-day stuff — just the soreness in my back and stuff like that,” Melton said. “So we just tried to be way more precautious with it this time. And with the playoffs here, just got to figure it out so I can get out there and help my team.” 

He expressed confidence that he’ll indeed be capable of benefiting the Sixers as they aim to climb out of an 0-2 series hole. 

“That last time I went down, obviously doubt creeps into your mind,” Melton said. “But I just try to stay optimistic about it, understand that taking it day by day and being diligent about it, there was a chance I could come back and help this team. I don’t want to be out there trying to play and I’m doing a disservice to my team. … I feel like I’m able to help my team, so that’s why I’m ready to go.”

Newly crowned Most Improved Player Tyrese Maxey has seen much of Melton’s rehab efforts.

Even with Melton starting games over Maxey for a stretch last year, the two grew close, sharing many laughs as they put up jumpers after shootarounds and practices. Maxey has admired Melton’s approach through a difficult season. 

“I think Melt is always an impactful player when he’s out there,” Maxey said. “It’s been a journey for him, honestly, but one thing I can say as a co-worker and as a friend is that he’s really worked. There’s never been a moment that he’s been down.

“He’s worked every single day to try to come back. He hasn’t given up. And as a teammate, all you can do is appreciate something like that. If he’s able to come back, I think he can change the series and it’ll be great.”

On paper, a healthy Melton could give the Sixers a meaningful boost. As he noted Wednesday, “every possession matters” in the playoffs, and Melton has historically been an asset in that department. For a guard, he's been excellent at recording deflections, steals, blocks and defensive rebounds.

Melton’s high-volume three-point shooting might be useful, too. Two games into this series, the Sixers’ No. 3 scorer behind All-Stars Maxey and Embiid is Kyle Lowry with 13 points per game. Their remaining rotation players have combined to go just 7 for 22 from long range. 

Whatever he brings, Melton sounded determined to play a part in shifting the dynamic of the series.  

“From my perspective, it ain’t been fun,” he said of watching Games 1 and 2 from the sidelines. “I’ve been wearing more clothes than jerseys, so it ain’t been the best. 

“We could be 2-0, we could be 1-1, but right now we’re 0-2. So we’ve just got to figure out how to break through, how to get that first one. And I think the dominos will start falling after that.” 

As far as his own health, Maxey indicated he’s trending up.

The 23-year-old played a great game Monday night through an illness.

“I feel a little bit better,” he said. “I don’t know if you can hear it, but I feel congested. I coughed all night last night and the night before last. But I feel way better than I did the day of (Game 2) and the night before the game. … It was tough, man. I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to fight through it.’ There was no chance I was missing that game.” 

Nurse had little to say about Embiid, who’s dealt with continued left knee concerns and has also appeared to have issues with his left eye.

Embiid did not speak to reporters and wore sunglasses in the locker room following Game 1 and at shootaround before Game 2. He had his hand over his left eye during his postgame interview Monday. 

“He’s feeling OK,” Nurse said Wednesday when asked about Embiid’s eye. 

And how did Embiid’s left knee come out of Game 2?

“Pretty good,” Nurse said. “Pretty good. He’s OK.”  

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