Joel Embiid, not yet cleared to play in back-to-back games, did not travel with the Sixers and will not play Monday at Chicago. It's not certain if he will play Tuesday at home against the Kings.
Embiid has been experiencing tightness in his back for a little over a week and after playing a career-high 48 minutes, 39 seconds against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday in a triple-overtime loss, it's not surprising that the Sixers' franchise player will have the night off.
The team will also be without newly acquired power forward Trevor Booker, who suffered a left ankle sprain against the Thunder. Booker, who is averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds since joining the Sixers, will be out against Chicago and Sacramento, then be reevaluated next week.
Against the Thunder, Embiid played the entire the three overtime periods and Brett Brown said there were conversations about whether or not to give the big man a short rest, but said that his back seems to tighten up when he sits, so the decision was made that Embiid would play on.
"The risk was actually tilted more in him sitting and it stiffening up than it was him being overused," Brown said.
Brown said Embiid did not express having any more pain in his back than he has already been experiencing. He also said the medical staff was not concerned with the amount of minutes Embiid played Friday, adding that if they had to do it over again, they would do it the same way.
Embiid has yet to play against Chicago, having missed all three of the matchups last season. Monday will be the sixth game Embiid has missed this season.
The Bulls, who started the season with a dismal 3-20 record, are on a five-game winning streak that has coincided with the return of Nikola Mirotic. The fourth-year power forward was sidelined for the first 23 games after an altercation with teammate Bobby Portis left him with multiple broken bones in his face.
Since Mirotic's return, Chicago has beaten Charlotte, New York, Boston, Utah, and Milwaukee. Mirotic is averaging 20 points and 6.2 rebounds in those games.
"You're on the road, playing against a hot team, Mirotic has come back, and we just have to go in there with the same mentality. We feel like we're playing decent basketball and physical basketball and we hope to have that," Brown said.
Brown is still reviewing Chicago's substitution patterns and the successes and failures of previous matchups to determine whether Richaun Holmes or Amir Johnson will start in Embiid's absence. Adding the injury of Booker to the fold, Brown said he'll need the team to step up and continue playing physically.
"With Mirotic being back, he can score the ball and he's given them a boost," Holmes said following Sunday's practice in Camden. "We just want to go in there and try to play the way we play and if we do that I think we'll give ourselves a chance to win."
Despite Chicago's record, their recent streak has put the Sixers on high alert to not underestimate them Monday night. The Sixers have lost seven of their last 10 games and want to make good against the Bulls and Kings ,who are both in the bottom tier of the respective conferences.