The 76ers, except for All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, are on break, catching a welcome breather before returning to action Thursday when they host the Brooklyn Nets.
With a 34-21 record, the Sixers have 27 games left, a last third of the season that will feel like a sprint. Embiid and Simmons will get a few days off after Sunday’s All-Star Game in Chicago. The team will reunite Wednesday when coach Brett Brown will attempt to set up his rotation entering the playoffs.
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Brown said several times before the break that he was going to hunker down and work on shaping the team for the final third. One of the things he will determine is his rotation.
Since the acquisition of Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks last week from Golden State, Brown’s only game with the current team was Tuesday’s 110-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. (Burks was available the previous game, but Brown indicated he would rest him, citing his travel schedule).
Against the Clippers, Brown went with a 10-man rotation, excluding Norvel Pelle and Shake Milton, who both played just the final 42 seconds. That was the first game that Al Horford didn’t start since his rookie year in 2007, with Furkan Korkmaz, coming off games of 34 and 31 points, starting in his place.
Korkmaz didn’t score, so if Brown elects to continue bringing Horford off the bench, and that seems a pretty good bet, then that fifth starting spot could be a revolving door. It could depend on matchups or simply who is playing well.
As for appropriating the playing time, Brown understands he has a difficult task.
“There are a stable of wings that something has to give. There are only so many minutes,” he said earlier in the week.
Besides Horford, who played 27 minutes and 56 seconds against the Clippers, here were the minutes of the other reserves Tuesday: Burks, 14:20; Matisse Thybulle, 16:06; Robinson, 12:19; and Mike Scott, 5:09. Scott, who is averaging 17.2 minutes, might be the rotation player most impacted by the additions of Robinson and Burks.
Thybulle, who continues to be a defensive presence, is averaging 20.3 minutes. While he may not average that many in the new setup, he will be a key factor.
If Brown is looking for offense, Burks might get more of a run. And probably the reserve who brings the best combination of offense and defense other than Horford is Robinson.
Pelle’s best chance for action is if Horford has to rest, or Embiid can’t go.
Milton, who averaged 12 points in the six games Josh Richardson recently missed because of a tight left hamstring, could have trouble earning minutes. The same is the case for backup point guard Raul Neto, especially if Richardson spends time at point guard, as he did Tuesday. Neto didn’t play Tuesday, coach’s decision.
So Brown will work these things out, but it might be several games, if not more, before he is set on what will eventually be his playoff rotation.
While Embiid is making his third straight All-Star appearance and Simmons is going for the second year in a row, the two Sixers cornerstones have a way to go to catch up with the greats of the game.
Here are the top players in all-time All-Star appearances.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 19
2. Kobe Bryant 18
3 (tie). LeBron James 16
3 (tie). Julius Erving 16*
5 (tie). Tim Duncan 15
5 (tie). Kevin Garnett 15
5 (tie). Shaquille O’Neal 15
8 (tie). Michael Jordan 14
8 (tie). Karl Malone 14
8 (tie). Dirk Nowitzki 14
8 (tie). Jerry West 14
12 (tie). Wilt Chamberlain 13
12 (tie). Bob Cousy 13
12 (tie). John Havlicek 13
12 (tie). Moses Malone 13**
12 (tie). Dwyane Wade 13
*-Erving had five All-Star appearances in the ABA
**-Malone had one All-Star appearance in the ABA
Paul Arizin, 1952*
Wilt Chamberlain, 1960*
Hal Greer, 1968
Julius Erving, 1977
Julius Erving, 1983
Charles Barkley, 1991
Allen Iverson, 2001
Allen Iverson, 2005
* - members of the Philadelphia Warriors
Feb. 20: Brooklyn Nets at Sixers, 8 p.m., TNT
Feb 22: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Feb. 24: Atlanta Hawks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Feb. 26: Sixers at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Feb. 27: New York Knicks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Answer: Thanks for the question, Jimmy, and for continually reading our Sixers coverage on inquirer.com. I feel the Sixers have a chance to get to the Eastern Conference finals. Just as I feel they have a chance to lose in the first round, depending on the matchup.
But I do think the Sixers have a chance to have a good postseason. So much depends on Embiid and whether he gets comfortable in a system in which Simmons is also going to get his share of low-post touches.