The Sixers have been looking for ways to get Joel Embiid rest before the postseason. The most obvious solution would be sitting him for an entire game.
Except Embiid has no interest in doing that.
“I’m playing in every game,” Embiid said following his 59th appearance of the season.
The Sixers have 12 games remaining prior to the playoffs. Six are in variations of home-away back-to-backs, starting with Thursday’s matchup in Orlando in which Embiid is expected to play.
His minutes have jumped this season to 31 per game, a serious leap for the player who had been under tight restrictions. The Sixers, who are now currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference (see standings), need a healthy Embiid to succeed in the postseason. They are eyeing time off for him and other high-minutes players.
“I think that there will be a game that we do do that,” Brett Brown said. “He’s just so ridiculously competitive and he so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. He so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. I think that for us to say he’s going to play every one of the remaining games after tonight, 12 of them, is not going to happen. But I bet it comes with a fight.”
Brown is right. Embiid has been making his case to remain in the lineup.
“We didn’t come this far to rest me,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 119-105 win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday (see observations). “I mean, I was always complaining about playing every game and playing back-to-backs. I’m sure the fans were, too.
“Now that we’re here, I can understand maybe the last game before we get ready for the playoffs, but other than that, I want to play every game because that’s my first time I get the chance to do that.”
The reasons to rest are pretty clear. The grind of the season can take its toll, especially on a player who never has come close to playing this amount of basketball. Embiid, though, thrives on consistency and repetition. He’s averaging 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds in five games on no days’ rest.
“You stay in shape,” Embiid said. “I’m the type of guy that when I miss a day or two and I don’t really do anything, I get out of shape really quick. Just being consistent about playing and not missing two or three days. I know my body … I want to keep going. Honestly, I’ve been feeling really good. I haven’t been tired, so I’ve just got to keep it going.”
Brown sees that perspective, having coached players over his career who have had the same mentality.
“Too much time off wasn’t desirable," Brown said. "It sounds attractive but the maniacal ones especially, you feel like you’re just not as well prepared, I think to strike that balance of the rest versus rhythm is always a challenge. I don’t think it’s a generic formula.”
Another solution: Building — and maintaining — big enough leads to rest in the fourth. The Sixers led the Grizzlies by 30 after three quarters, which allowed all the starters to sit the entire final quarter. Embiid played only 19 minutes and 33 seconds.