Backup big man Montrezl Harrell suffered a torn ACL and medial meniscal tear in his right knee, the Sixers told reporters on Wednesday.

Harrell underwent an MRI after recently experiencing right knee swelling following offseason workouts, revealing the damage.

The Sixers re-signed Harrell to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum last month, bringing him back to Philadelphia on a new deal after the former Sixth Man of the Year winner opted out of the final year of the previous deal he signed with the Sixers.

On one hand, there is the human side to this. Harrell's struggles with mobility were always problematic on defense, and that was when he didn't have to overcome such significant knee injuries. He was historically able to make up for his defensive warts with power and physicality on offense. But, last season saw his effectiveness at the rim depreciate quite a bit. So, having multiple knee injuries to recover from puts his future in the NBA into question at the very least.

On the Sixers' side, there are a couple options. While his salary for the 2023-24 season is slated to be $2,891,467, only $2,019,706 of that counts on Philadelphia's cap sheet. They can choose to cut him, freeing up a roster spot to reward to someone else. They could also keep him, ostensibly allowing him to stay around the team as he recovers from what lies ahead.

Either way, he's making nearly $2.9 million this season, and, for team-building purposes, they're being dinged for roughly $2.02 million of it.

There is an interesting option the Sixers could investigate in all of this. The NBA has a Disabled Player Exception that, according to the league's collective bargaining agreement, permits teams to "sign or acquire one Replacement Player to replace a player who, as a result of a Disabling Injury or Illness, is unable to render playing services".

There are, however, rules that must be followed.

According to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, teams have through January 15 of that league year to apply for the exception, regardless of when the injury or illness occurred. The exception expires if not used by March 10. It may only be used to sign a replacement player to a one-year deal. Should a team opt to acquire a replacement via trade, he can only have one season remaining on his contract. There are salary provisions that must be met and other rules to be followed, but those intricate details can be found in the collective bargaining agreement.

At the end of the day, if the Sixers obtain the exception, the language of the NBA's governing pact is such that Harrell would almost certainly not play for them this season.

Perhaps that was always going to be the case given the nature of the injury. Perhaps Harrell's time with the Sixers won't be remembered fondly by the Philadelphia faithful and this is a negligible development in their minds anyway.

But, as much as it's a sad day for the veteran big man, it might present a resource for the Sixers to consider.

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