76ers

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Embiid, Saric out for preseason opener

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Embiid, Saric out for preseason opener

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. 

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is letting it be known he is unhappy about his minute restrictions to start the season.

"That's f---ing BS," he said after practice Tuesday. "I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I'm ready for more than I don't know whatever number they have."

The Sixers are eyeing 16 minutes for Embiid on opening night on Wednesday. He played nearly 15 minutes in his two preseason games and feels he can handle more, adding his previously-injured left knee and ankle "felt great." 

He has expressed his feelings to the team. 

"I always think I have a voice so I'm sure they're listening to what I have to say too," he said. "But they're making a decision based on what they think. But I think that's BS."

Embiid's desire to play more minutes likely will be an ongoing situation this season, or at least early on. He expected to be cleared for 24 minutes at this point. (In comparison, he logged 22:25 last opening night.) Embiid feels the best way to get his body in game shape is to actually be in the game, not training on a cardio machine. 

"I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated," Embiid said. "I don't think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it's reacting." 

The Sixers, however, are continuing to proceed with caution with the injury-prone big man. After missing his first two years because of his foot, he underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid also sprained his left ankle in the preseason finale. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27. 

Add that to the fact Embiid is a centerpiece of their future after inking him to a five-year, $146.5 contract extension last week.

"They know that I'm frustrated, but once again you've got to trust the doctors," Embiid said. "They care about me. It's all about the long-term view." 

The coaching staff is faced with the tricky task of managing Embiid's allotted minutes over a 48-minute span. Brett Brown is considering using up his playing time in the first half instead of spacing it out to have him available in the fourth quarter. 

Embiid estimates if he started the third, as an example, he would be resting for 16 minutes before he got the nod late in the final quarter. He said that is "tough" on both his body and on the coaches. Brown agrees after trying to balance his playing time last season. 

"You think it's smart to save four minutes to end a game with him, but the canyons in between where he just sits there and sits there and then he's got to come in and save the day, I don't know if I like that," Brett Brown said. 

"It's on my mind, do we just spend our money and we'll get you more money the next game and so on, and just play him regularly and grow it from that base versus he sits forever and then he's just got to come in and save the day. Or oops, it goes to overtime and, 'Sorry, you can't play against Memphis in overtime.'"

The Sixers will have to balance the medical staff's minute guidelines with Embiid's intense desire to be on the court and the team's record. They are looking to make a significant push in the win column, and Embiid is the driving force behind that jump.

"I think this is a big year for the whole team and me personally," Embiid said. "I feel like I've got something to prove, too. So I want to be out there with my teammates and win some games."

If it were Embiid's call, he would play until he didn't feel like he could anymore. It's not up to him, though. And so there's just one thing left for him to do.

"Like I always say," he said, "you've got to trust the process."

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic as in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said.