When the 76ers face their first NBA competition of the preseason, Joel Embiid won’t be in the lineup. The team announced after Thursday’s practice that Embiid won’t play against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Embiid isn’t injured. This is all part of load management. The plan is for him to play Sunday in Orlando against the Magic.
Al Horford will move from his starting power forward position to center in place of Embiid. Coach Brett Brown said he still hadn’t decided on who will be the fifth starter, joining Horford, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris.
Brown said after practice that he will enjoy the chance to use Horford at center, since it is something expected to happen frequently this year. The Sixers want to keep Embiid fresh for the postseason. He played 64 games last regular season but wore down at the end heading into the postseason.
The Sixers have 13 back-to-back games this year, and it’s likely he will get a rest in either the front or back end of those games. So Brown is getting a preview of Horford starting in the middle.
“To be able to take this opportunity and knowing that it is coming with Joel being out some games this year, I am,” Brown said.
Brown has several options in picking a fifth starter for the Hornets game.
“I can move Tobias to the four and fill in underneath,” he said. “Or I can keep Tobias at the three and start Mike Scott. I will figure out what I am doing.”
Embiid participated in the Sixers’ intrasquad scrimmage Saturday and in Tuesday’s 144-86 win over the Guangzhou Long-Lions. He played 13 minutes, 46 seconds in that game and had 17 points and three rebounds, making all nine of his foul shots.
Toward the end of last season, Embiid was bothered by tendinitis in his left knee and missed 14 of the final 24 regular-season games. The injury also forced him to miss Game 3 of the opening-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Over the summer, Embiid worked on rehabbing the knee. After practice Wednesday, he said things were going fine.
“It’s a gradual buildup to get rhythm,” Embiid said. “[Tuesday] was good for me. It was kind of like the first game setting I have had in a while besides the scrimmage, and it was good getting the rhythm back.”
The two games will be early preseason measuring sticks for the Sixers.
“We will see where we are against Charlotte and Orlando,” Simmons said following Thursday’s practice.
Brown says he doesn’t have a set-minute total for his starters, but each day the players are being introduced to more and more of the playbook.
“You are going to start seeing us put in a little more stuff and we are going to start ramping it up," Brown said. "As far as what that means like on crazy minutes, you won’t see that, but inch by inch we are going to grow to have the ability structurally and condition-wise to start an NBA season on Oct. 23,” Brown said.