Joel Embiid said after Wednesday night’s win over the visiting New York Knicks that he would play in both of the 76ers’ home games this weekend, Friday against San Antonio and Saturday against Miami.
Thursday, the Sixers confirmed that it is indeed the plan, with this caveat: Embiid, like all players, will be reevaluated after Friday’s game to ensure he is good to go Saturday.
The medical history of Embiid, who missed his first two seasons because of injury, is well documented. Last season, Embiid was worn down and injured during the playoffs and his play suffered.
The Sixers (9-5) have been intent on keeping Embiid strong through the end of the season. He has played in 10 of their 14 games. He missed the second game, in Detroit, with a right ankle sprain. And he was suspended for two games for his Oct. 30 altercation with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Embiid also sat out the second game of a back-to back in Orlando on Nov. 13.
Embiid is averaging 22.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 29.5 minutes. Asked after practice whether the Sixers plan to play Embiid in back-to-back games to get him into a rhythm, coach Brett Brown said, “I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Brown then explained the complex situation of load management with Embiid.
“This whole thing is very, very scrutinized, discussed, studied with a handful of people. Really I am not saying led by Joel, but with a significant voice in all of it, an opinion,” Brown said. “It had been discussed a while ago that this was going to be one of the first back-to-backs that we were going to look at. We hope that is true and hope it is the wise thing to do, and I am looking forward to getting as much of Joel Embiid as I can.”
The games against the Spurs (5-10) and Heat (10-3) are the second set of 13 back-to-backs the Sixers will have. The last time Embiid played both ends of back-to-backs was Feb. 12 at home against Boston and Feb. 13 at the New York Knicks.
Embiid played 37 1/2 minutes and had 23 points and 14 rebounds in a 112-109 loss to the Celtics. In a 126-111 win at Madison Square Garden, he played 34:09 and had 26 points and 14 rebounds.
That was the final game before the All-Star break. He then played in 10 of the final 24 regular-season games.
In the games Embiid missed this season, Al Horford moved over from power forward to center.
Horford also got a day off during the last set of back-to-backs. He reluctantly had the night off Nov. 12 against Cleveland. The next night, when Embiid sat in Orlando, Horford started in his place.
Horford, 33, said there is no plan for him to sit out either game this weekend. “I will be playing as long as everything feels fine,” he said.
Guards Josh Richardson and Trey Burke are listed as questionable for Friday’s game. Burke has left knee and ankle soreness from a charge he took in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win. Richardson missed the game with right hip-flexor tightness.