CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid checked off a key criterion in his return to play by participating in full-court 5-on-5 work on Thursday.
This was the first time Embiid has played basketball to this extent since undergoing season-ending left knee surgery in March. He didn't experience soreness in the scrimmage.
"It felt great," Embiid said. "I was a little bit rusty but it felt great just running up and down. I've been doing quite a bit for the past few weeks as far as conditioning, so I felt a little bit better at the beginning. Toward the end, I was a little bit tired. But I felt great. I worked hard to get back. ... I've just got to keep on working to get back to playing shape."
Embiid has been eyeing a debut of opening night on Oct. 18. He would like to get into a preseason game before then, though. Last year, he found the repetitions before the regular season helped him get into a rhythm.
Embiid thinks he has a "pretty good" chance to play in a preseason game next week. He will not play on Friday against the Celtics.
"It's on the medical staff. I trust them," Embiid said. "But at the same time, I have a voice too. I think they value my opinion too. It's about us being on the same page. If I feel good and I'm able to play, they're going to let me play. I want to be out there obviously."
Brown had trouble finding comparable matchups to Embiid in the scrimmage given his physicality. The Sixers had been tailoring their practices in training camp to incorporate Embiid as much as they could. Brown noticed the restrictions of half-court work in Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies.
"I felt the pain of that last night," Brown said. "Transition defense, running, we played slow. We didn't get back. I didn't feel like that helped us. Today, having Jo where we could have no half-court restrictions and we could actually play basketball was excellent."
Brown's goal for Embiid is to do everything on the court "harder, smarter, longer." Even though Embiid is going to be one of the Sixers' offensive focal points, he is using these practices to focus on defense, too.
"I love being the best defender in the league," he said. "Obviously in my career, I want to win a few Defensive Player of the Year [awards]."
Embiid has been down the injury road before after missing his first two seasons. He is confident in the latest step he has taken.
"It's all going to come together," he said.
In addition to Embiid, Dario Saric (rest) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendinitis) will not play against the Celtics.
Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness), Robert Covington (right knee soreness) and Amir Johnson (sprained right ankle) are probable. Fultz went through resistance and cardio training Thursday but did not practice.