BIRMINGHAM, Mich – Joel Embiid gets a day of rest.
The 76ers center will not play in Friday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. This comes after the All-Star looked weary while having one of his worst shooting performances in Wednesday’s 113-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Canada.
The MVP candidate made just 5 of 17 shots (29.4 percent) en route to finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, four turnovers, and two blocks. He also looked sluggish on the defensive end. The 7-foot-2, 270-pounder was a step slow, was moved off his spot, and had a hard time keeping Raptors reserve center Jonas Valanciunas in front of him.
But Embiid has really looked out of sorts lately on the offensive end. He has shot a combined 14-for-42 in the Sixers' last three games, against the Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies (Sunday) and Washington Wizards (Nov. 30).
Embiid’s 892 minutes played are the fourth most in the NBA behind guard New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday (946), Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant (929) and Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (892).
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves has the second-most minutes played by a center at 842.
The Sixers (17-9), however, have played more games that most NBA teams. So Embiid ranks tied for 25th in the league at 34.3 per game. The Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol, who is tied for sixth, is the only center averaging more minutes (35.6).
It’s not surprising that Embiid wanted to play Friday.
“If he could, he’d play 48 minutes,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “And I feel that if there’s any responsibility that we have as an organization is to preserve our player’s health. It was clear to us and Joel that he was fatigued over the past few games, especially. "
Brown added that his responsibility to deciding how to get his players to April, when the postseason begins.
“How do you deliver them in a healthy, spirited fashion when it matters the most?” he said. “So the decision to sit Joel tonight is mine. It’s always delivered with the purpose to try to help him.”
Brown said Embiid is not injured, and is with the team here in Michigan.
The coach said he hasn’t decided whether to start Amir Johnson or Mike Muscala at the Pistons (13-9) Friday. Johnson received a Did Not Play, Coaches Decision on Wednesday. However, Muscala is one of the team’s best contributors in a reserve role. The Sixers might decide to keep him there.
The Sixers will definitely miss Embiid’s presence against fourth-place Detroit. The third-place Sixers are two games ahead of them in the standings. The two teams will play again on Monday in Philadelphia before the Sixers face the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday and the Indiana Pacers on Friday during their three-game homestand.
Friday’s game is “at Detroit. They are one of the East’s better teams,” Brown said. "You are looking forward to seeing us play against that type o competition. But when you step back and look at with your big boy’s hat on and sort of from a lense of responsibility, it’s not even close.
He needs rest. That’s the bottom line.
With Embiid’s absence, folks in Detroit won’t get to see one of the league’s biggest player rivalries between Embiid and Pistons two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond.
Embiid dominated Drummond in a 109-99 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 2. Embiid had 39 points and a game-high 17 rebounds and did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 32 points and hitting 15 of 17 foul shots.
It’s not surprising that Embiid came out fired up against Drummond. The two have a history of going back and forth with each other. So much so that the Sixers' standout said, “I feel like I own a lot of real estate in his head” after frustrating Drummond in the Pistons' 133-132 overtime victory Oct. 23 in Detroit
"I knew that after the trash talk I had last game, I knew that he was going to be excited," Embiid said back on Nov. 2. "That's why I get all those guys that guard me, because I know they are going into a matchup so excited. I'm going to take advantage of that."
After that game, Embiid posted on his Instagram page and on Twitter: “I own a lot of real estate in @andredrummondd head and I’m on my way to build more #Bum #TheProcess”
He didn’t stop there. Embiid also posted on Instragram a video of Drummond dancing with the caption “mood.”