Joel Embiid will play in Sunday’s 76ers home matchup against the Toronto Raptors, after being listed as questionable with back soreness for the third consecutive game.
The All-Star big man took a hard fall during Monday’s loss against Denver. He has also been primed to receive a rest day after playing in 41 of the Sixers’ last 42 games entering Sunday. When asked before Sunday’s game if Embiid would play against the Raptors, coach Doc Rivers said, “I think so, but don’t know yet.”
Embiid is coming down the stretch of an MVP-caliber season, leading the NBA in scoring (30 points per game) entering Sunday while averaging 11.3 rebounds, a career-high 4.4 assists, and 1.4 blocks. After being listed as questionable earlier this week, he finished with 35 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 assists in Wednesday’s win in Cleveland and 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists in Friday’s win over Dallas.
Embiid’s playing Sunday could increase the likelihood that he will rest Monday’s home game against Miami, which tips off 23 hours following Sunday’s start. Perhaps as extra insurance, the Sixers called up rookie center Charles Bassey from the G League’s Delaware Blue Coats on Sunday.
Raptors All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet (rest) and starting wing OG Anunoby (finger) will not play against the Sixers.
Jordan discovering niche with Sixers
DeAndre Jordan spent Saturday taking a quiz.
Yes, a quiz.
The 76ers’ new backup center is enrolled in online contemplative studies courses at Brown University, an endeavor he began during the NBA’s 2020 hiatus at the start of the pandemic following years of reading about meditation and mindfulness on his own. He is also steadily learning how to fit in with the Sixers after joining them on the buyout market about two weeks ago. Friday was Jordan’s best performance in six games with the team as he totaled eight points, seven rebounds, and one block in 13 minutes in a win over the Dallas Mavericks.
“He’s long and he sneaks behind the defense,” Rivers said of Jordan. “You just can’t step up on James [Harden] with him behind you, and him and James have a pretty good relationship there.”
Jordan has spent this period reestablishing timing on lobs with Harden, whom he briefly played with in Brooklyn, and deciphering the angles that new teammates Georges Niang and Danny Green take to come off screens to get open shots.
“When you come into a situation, you always want to make sure everybody still feels comfortable and [does not need to] adjust to you as a player,” Jordan said. “For me, my entire career, I’ve always been a role guy, so it’s always been easy for me to find my role and my niche on the team. …
“It took a couple games, but I think that we’re still learning each other. It looked good the other night because we won, but I think that we’ve got to just continue to build and not only watch the good games but the not-so-good games, too.”
With Joel Embiid expected to rest at some point during the Sixers’ final 13 games, Jordan’s role could briefly increase as a spot starter. He believes it is helpful that his minutes often come alongside first-teamers Harden and Tobias Harris (who is also a former teammate with the Los Angeles Clippers), and that he shared the court with Tyrese Maxey during Wednesday’s win at Cleveland.
“We want those guys to be healthy, but we also want to continue to build our camaraderie and our chemistry on the court as a unit,” Jordan said. “But I’ve got to be a pro. Whenever it does happen, that’s why we’ve got 15 guys on this team. So I think when and if Jo does sit out a game or however many during the rest of this stretch that myself, Paul Millsap, Paul Reed got to be ready to go.”
As for Jordan’s off-the-court education, Brown’s website defines “contemplative studies” as a concentration that “investigates the underlying philosophical, psychological, and scientific bases of human contemplative experience” through third-person analysis of religion, art, music and literature along with first-person “practical experience of contemplative techniques and methods.”
Jordan assured that he needed to go through the typical application process — including writing an essay and collecting a letter of recommendation from “someone that we all know” (aka Rivers) — to be admitted to the Ivy League school. He had time to take multiple courses during the NBA hiatus, but that became much more challenging when last season returned to a relatively normal schedule.
Yet he carved out time Saturday for his latest quiz — which he said he passed.