The Philadelphia 76ers are waiting to see how serious Ben Simmons' shoulder injury is after the Australian was forced off in Wednesday's loss to the Utah Jazz.

Simmons was withdrawn in the second quarter of Utah's 106-104 victory with what the team described as "right shoulder soreness", an injury he appeared to sustain when bumping Jazz guard Royce O'Neale in the chest.

Philadelphia face the Denver Nuggets on Friday and Simmons is expected to be assessed on Thursday to determine how long he will be out for.

"I hope he's going to be alright," team-mate Tobias Harris said in quotes published on the Philadelphia Inquirer's website.

"I checked him after the game. He said he's going to be okay. We'll just have to wait for tomorrow and see what happens."

It was a blow to the 76ers as they got Joel Embiid, another All-Star, back from a ban.

Embiid, who was suspended for two games following his brawl with Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, led the 76ers with 27 points, but head coach Brett Brown admitted his team missed Simmons.

"Defense is where I think we felt the pain of not having him the most," Brown told reporters.

"After that, you're just missing a veteran athlete to come in and keep the group together."

Were Simmons to miss any time, Philadelphia would lean more heavily on Embiid, and he vowed to avoid any more bans following his fracas with Towns.

"Obviously getting suspended is not good for me and the team," he said.

"So it's never going to happen again. But I'm happy to be back."

Al Horford has signed for the Philadelphia 76ers, who also officially confirmed Tobias Harris will be remaining with the franchise.

Veteran center Horford has reportedly inked a four-year deal worth $109million after declining his $30.1m player option with the Boston Celtics last month.

Horford was originally expected to return to the team on a three-year deal before negotiations fell apart.

"We're excited to welcome one of the NBA's best frontcourt players in Al Horford to Philadelphia," Sixers general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. 

"He has built his reputation around hard work and a tradition of winning, which are the same qualities that have formed the foundation of the 76ers.

"Al's playmaking, elite defensive talents and veteran leadership confirm why he is a crucial addition to our roster. 

"We have gained a championship-level team-mate that will not only complement our current make-up but will help grow our young core as we strive for the highest level of success."

In further good news for the 76ers, Harris is staying in Philadelphia. His agent and father, Torrel, told The Athletic he has signed a five-year, $180m contract.

Philadelphia acquired Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline earlier this year. He averaged 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in 27 regular-season games with the 76ers.

Harris has bounced around the NBA and has played for five teams in eight seasons, averaging 15.4 points per game while shooting 36.4 per cent from three-point range in 546 career appearances.

"Signing Tobias and solidifying him as a foundational piece of our core for years to come was a top priority for our organisation this summer," Brand said. 

"His impact in our city extends far beyond his elite talents on the floor. He has ingrained himself in the community and established himself as a leader and driver of positive change. 

"Tobias is a fierce competitor with a tireless work ethic and embodies all of the qualities of a franchise cornerstone. I couldn't be happier to welcome Tobias and his entire family back to the 76ers and we all look forward to continuing our quest to win a championship for this city and our amazing fans.”

The balance of power continues to shift in the NBA, as Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers makes the league a lot more interesting.

At the beginning of 2018-19, many seemed to believe the road to the NBA Finals ran through the Boston Celtics. Then the Milwaukee Bucks posted the best record in the league just a year removed from finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

But it was the Toronto Raptors who dethroned the
Golden State Warriors in the end, and now they will have a new look without their superstar. Plenty of other teams are hungry for glory and now is the perfect time to strike.

Here are three teams that could now take over the Eastern Conference:

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern Conference is now wide open, but the Bucks are ahead of the pack. After all, they retained two All-Stars — one being reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee underwent a serious transformation under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer last season. Antetokounmpo has put up historically strong numbers in the paint, but the Bucks were also among the league leaders in three-point attempts.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will likely be constants, but it remains to be seen how the chemistry will be after losing Malcolm Brogdon.

Milwaukee simply have the centrepiece every other team wish they had in Antetokounmpo, so there is no reason to count them out just yet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have lost an All-Star-calibre player in Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they will be just fine.

Philadelphia were one circus buzzer-beater away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are bringing back plenty of talent in 2019-20. The 76ers flipped Butler to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson and lured Al Horford away from the Celtics, giving them what might be the best defensive line-up in basketball.

Small Ball? Philadelphia have never heard of it, as the shortest wingspan on their current roster is 6-10. 

The 76ers' starting group will likely feature Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. And then there is second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was voted the most athletic player in the 2018 NBA Draft by his peers but missed most of last season due to an unfortunate allergic reaction.

Philadelphia have size, playmaking, strong defense and four players that could get legitimate All-Star consideration in the coming season. Embiid's questionable health could be a facto but getting a versatile big like Horford that can fill in if he goes down will definitely keep the 76ers in contender conversations.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if Kevin Durant cannot play until 2020, the Nets should be better this season. They lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors, but Kyrie Irving can be a considerable upgrade if the pieces come together just right.

Both Russell and Irving are high-usage guards, but Irving is more efficient and poses the kind of threat that makes every player on the opposing team watch him when the ball is in his hands. 

Brooklyn added veterans in DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple that should pair nicely with returning pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in 2018-19 — converting 47.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

But the wild card is Caris LeVert, who arguably was the Nets' best player before a leg injury sidelined him last November. The 24-year-old guard was establishing himself as Brooklyn's go-to guy and now he has had a whole offseason to recover after showing flashes of his potential in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Adding Durant to a group like this could prove to be lethal and would certainly make the Nets a force to be reckoned with.

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