Death, taxes and Brett Brown being asked about the health and fitness level of Joel Embiid. It’s just inevitable.
There’s a reason for it, though. Embiid has battled through injuries since even before his Sixers career started. He’s also received plenty of criticism for his conditioning level seeming to lack at times.
There’s an argument to be made that a fully healthy Embiid gets the Sixers past the Raptors in the playoffs last year. Who knows what happens after that.
None of that is lost on his head coach — or Embiid himself.
“Joel's always a topic,” Brown said in a video conference with reporters Friday. “We get it. The importance that he represents as being a complete parallel to can you win a championship or not, is real.
“I've had many conversations with Jo. I spoke with him 30 minutes ago, and he's got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he's been in the league.”
The NBA season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. That means it’s been over two months since Embiid has played an actual basketball game. With that comes questions about where Embiid will be from a fitness standpoint if/when the league resumes play.
At this point, teams may have to prepare as if they’re going to start the playoffs immediately with a small ramp-up period prior. That’s what Brown is preparing for and the scenario he believes Embiid is preparing for as well.
“I feel, like this year [he's] averaging 30 minutes and last year he's at 34. Really, if the playoffs started pick whatever date you want to choose, my ideal thing is I want to play him about 38 minutes. I really would. In a playoff situation, as the head coach, that's my ideal number. In the regular season, you bring him along and so I think 30 was the number this year that he ended up, but possibly [this break could be helpful].”
The trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson has missed a combined 49 games this season. Brown said that he’s told his coaches and players that when/if play resumes, there are no excuses, but health is a factor for any team trying to compete for a championship.
We’ve heard the refrain over and over again from Brown and general manager Elton Brand: “This team is built for the playoffs.” Both stuck by that sentiment in their recent availabilities. Brown thinks he can unlock much more with a healthy version of this Sixers team.
Still, all of it revolves around Embiid.
“I feel like Joel is completely — and this is good,” Brown said, “Joel is completely aware that kind of as he goes with his health and his fitness, we go.”
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