The Sixers are wise to be careful with Joel Embiid

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Philadelphia Sixers, Joel Embiid
Photo via: Yong Kim/Philadelphia Magazine

Philadelphia Sixers big man Joel Embiid is essentially the basketball version of Frankenstein. After toiling in Philly’s desolate hoops lair for two consecutive seasons due to a right foot ailment, Embiid who was the No.3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is ready to be liberated.

Mad scientist and Sixers head coach Brett Brown is anxious to release Embiid from his basketball burrow, but he acknowledges that there will be restrictions imposed upon the former Kansas Jayhawk with the intent to not only usher him back into things slowly, but also preserve what many presume could be a promising career. This makes sense since the Sixers won’t be playing for much this season other than a draft pick and the crafting of some type of identity.

According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirerthe Sixers will have Embiid on a minutes restriction and he will not play back-to-backs.

The Sixers will have him on a minutes restriction. Embiid also isn’t expected to play on back-to-back nights. They won’t know if he’ll start at center against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the season-opener until after consulting with the medical staff.

Embiid has not played in an officially regulated basketball game since March 1st of 2014, when his Jayhawks fell to Oklahoma State. Embiid tweaked his back in the defeat, and he was shelved for the remainder of the season. Philadelphia understands how delicate they must be in dealing with Embiid, and pushing things even a pinch further than they should go could aggravate an already creaky foot.

That’s why installing a maintenance plan such as the one Philadelphia plans to enact is smart for both parties. Philly won’t be playing for much more than another lottery pick this upcoming season, and they’ll look establish some type of team-based individuality, the type of distinctiveness that all great teams have and what the Sixers have been devoid of since they shipped away Allen Iverson to Denver. 

Joel Embiid, Brett Brown, Philadelphia Sixers
YONG KIM / Philadelphia Magazine

For Brown and the Sixers this season it’s all about riffling through the roster and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Will 2016’s No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons fare better at the three or four? Where will Dario Saric be slotted and how will he be utilized? Who will ultimately be the Sixers’ trade causality between Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor? How can they groom Simmons as a shooter/scorer?

By easing Embiid into the picture, the answers to these questions will be answered. On the Noel and Okafor trade front, it gives both bigs an ample amount of playing time on to audition their talents an American Idol-esuqe stage. They just have to hope some team fishing on the market is their Paula Abdul and not Simon Cowell.

Hopefully the minute monitoring doesn’t miff Embiid, but I’m sure at times he’ll get frustrated at the infrequency of his time on the floor, specifically on nights when he has it rolling and he feels as if he can keep things going. That’s just Human Nature (shoutout to Mike Jack), but Embiid must buy into the Sixers’ shrewd sentiment and understand this is about the long-term.

Joel Embiid has the potential to stave off extinction for the traditional post-up big in the NBA, but he must stay healthy in order for that to occur. Philadelphia plans to take steps this year to necessitate continued wellness for Embiid throughout his career and that is the right move.

The flashes he shows this season could coalesce themselves into a much finer picture, and that’s what Sixers fans must understand. They’ve been good about adhering to their team’s motto thus far and they must continue. Trust the process. 

 

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