CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers open their preseason Wednesday night against the Grizzlies at the Wells Fargo Center.
As expected, Joel Embiid will not play then or Friday against the Celtics while he recovers from left knee surgery. He is targeting opening night as a return date and has been going through half-court 5-on-5 in practice.
“We are trying to cater the structure to slowly groom Joel back into the mix and let everybody get used to playing with him and him playing with us,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Tuesday.
Embiid isn’t the only one sidelined, either.
Dario Saric will be held out Wednesday for rest following a long summer of international competition for Croatia. Saric, who did not practice Tuesday, wants to play. Last season, he was upset he fell one game short of competing in all 82.
“He hates it. He can’t stand it,” Brown said. “He doesn’t want to let people down. He wants to fight through things. He’s everything that this city would want in their athletes. It’s a fistfight trying to get him to buy in. I’m going to try to do it more with him.”
Amir Johnson left practice Tuesday with a sprained right ankle. The Sixers will evaluate him before the game to determine his availability. He is listed as questionable. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendinitis) also will sit out Wednesday and Friday.
Who will guard Simmons?
The Grizzlies will be the first team to strategize for Ben Simmons. Brown is looking to gain insight into how their opponents defend the 6-foot-10 point guard. Simmons is prepared for different matchups in his first preseason game following a season-long foot injury.
“It depends what height they are, how big they are,” Simmons said. “If it’s a smaller guy, usually take them down to the post. If it’s a bigger guy, you can usually go by them. We’ll see once I get into the game and see how the flow goes.”
Inspiring NFL visit
The Sixers received a visit from former Eagles great Brian Dawkins. The nine-time Pro Bowler addressed the team before practice Tuesday.
“He’s obviously one of the best to do it,” T.J. McConnell said. “I was kind of in awe to see how humble and how hard he worked. It makes you open your eyes and shows how hard you have to work to be great.”
Dawkins is the latest on the team’s list of guest speakers. NBA Hall of Famer and former Sixer Charles Barkley attended a team gathering at Brown’s house last week.