AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -
It's not common for a team to have a player out with an injury or illness every night. It really isn't, but the Sixers just make it seem that way.
It was known going into Sunday's game against the Detroit Pistons that neither Joel Embiid nor Jerryd Bayless would be playing. Neither made the trip, as Embiid has minor inflammation in his right elbow and Bayless is battling torn wrist ligaments. What wasn't known was that starting point guard Sergio Rodriguez would come down with gastroenteritis, which forced him to stay back at the team hotel during the game. It is the same ailment that forced Jahlil Okafor to miss the previous three games.
No wonder the look on coach Brett Brown's face before the game made you wonder if he was dealing with an ailing stomach, also. He wasn't, it's just the daily pain he gets by trying to figure out who is playing where and for how long. All this on a night when Nerlens Noel made his season debut after missing the first 23 games with a sore knee.
"You look at it as an opportunity to play Nik Stauskas at a little bit of point," Brown mumbled. "You call upon T.J. (McConnell) to play longer. Those two will have the primary responsibility for bringing the ball up and getting us into stuff."
Many times over the past week or so, Brett Brown has gone out of his way to praise the play of forward Ersan Ilyasova. Turns out Ilyasova also has a fan in Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy. The 6-10 forward played 52 games with the Pistons last season, and averaged 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds before being traded to Orlando.
"He's a smart guy, which is really good, knows how to play, and he brings you a great effort every night," said Van Gundy. "He really plays hard all the time and he plays both ends of the floor, he's a two-way guy. Ersan's a great pro and a guy you could always count on for great effort. You can see he's playing extremely well right now and Brett's using him in good ways and he's playing really well. But it's not a surprise. When he's getting minutes consistently, which he was with us and he is now, throughout his career when he's gotten consistent minutes he's played really, really well."
In the four previous game entering Sunday's contest, Ilyasova averaged 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds.
The Sixers had to skip their morning shootaround as a storm hit the area Sunday morning and dumped close to a foot of snow . . . The Pistons swept the four games last season from the Sixers and averaged 113.3 points in those contests . . . Remember Ish Smith? Going into Sunday he was averaging 10.2 points, 6.2 assists and 3 rebounds for the Pistons . . . In the previous five games leading into Sunday, Detroit's Andre Drummond averaged 17.4 points and 15.2 rebounds while shooting over 65 percent from the floor . . . Starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was sidelined for the Pistons with a knee contusion. Villanova product Darrun Hilliard started in his place.