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Sixers' Brown sticking with Embiid-Okafor pairing through road trip

PHOENIX - Brett Brown is as transparent as a piece of Scotch tape. The Sixers coach talks to his players endlessly and about everything - world happenings, politics and, of course, basketball.

PHOENIX - Brett Brown is as transparent as a piece of Scotch tape. The Sixers coach talks to his players endlessly and about everything - world happenings, politics and, of course, basketball.

The whirlwind surrounding the team of late has been how Brown will use his trio of big men - Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. For the past four games, the coach has paired Embiid and Okafor, and says he will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Noel might or might not not see time off the bench as he continues to work himself back into playing shape following an early-season procedure on his left knee, which limited him to basically no practice time until the past week or so.

With the team starting a four-game road trip, Brown talked to the trio Friday morning as the Sixers prepared to face the Phoenix Suns. As always, everything was on the table.

"As we grow our bigs, what are our advantages? And I asked them that question," Brown said. " 'You three bigs, what are our advantages? Tell me about defense.' And we say things. 'Tell me about offense. And what are our advantages?' If we don't maximize our advantages well, then there are negatives involved with this, where you have to do some other things and find out where Ersan (Ilyasova) fits in and how you're ending games.

"So I have to look at it by completely identifying what are our strengths when we grow these guys and we play these guys . . . We have to take advantage of our advantages as we grow our bigs.

"We've started them (Embiid and Okafor) four games. I want to end this year with these four games and continue to study that lineup. We'll continue to bring Nerlens into this, as his fitness and knowledge of what we're doing grows. It will start to heat up at the end of the year, when Nerlens gets to practice more and study what we're actually doing. My intention is to study this Jahlil and Joel thing, continue to find ways to get Nerlens involved. We're all excited about pairing Nerlens with Joel and step back and say, 'How does it work?' There will be enough body of stats and gut feel to see if this is going the way that we want. And if it isn't, we'll try other stuff. That's where we are at. My intention is to see it through for the rest of this road trip."

The team's other big man, Richaun Holmes, remained in Philadelphia as he undergoes the NBA's concussion protocol after a collision in Thursday's practice. Also, Nik Stauskas missed Friday night's game with a bruised right knee.

The road trip continues at Sacramento on Monday, at Utah on Thursday and at Denver on Friday. The team will return home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 3.

Travel plans

The players did not practice Friday and, after the game against the Suns, aren't required to reconvene until Christmas night in Sacramento, a day before they face the Kings. So, many of the players left for different destinations after the game.

For those who staying in the Phoenix area, injured guard Jerryd Bayless was hosting a Christmas dinner at his house.

"We're going to Jerryd Bayless' house for a Christmas dinner, which we appreciate and look forward to," Brett Brown said. "Some of the guys are going back to Philly and other places. I will be here with the team."

Bayless is out for the season following wrist surgery, but the fact he would play host after not being with the team much since his operation says something about his character.

"It's just good to see him," Brown said. "He's been so not part of the team. He has been with doctors and since Stockton (training camp), it seems a thousand years ago. To see him here and integrate with the team and be around them, I think, is wonderful. But the impact that he has had on the team is very, very tiny, because he just hasn't been able to be with us, either through medical appointments or trying to figure out his next playing days. To see him here in Phoenix in his hometown is good."