Updated: 2:40 p.m.
Over four months since they beat the Pistons at Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers will be competing against another basketball team.
It’ll be the first of three scheduled scrimmages before they officially resume play at Walt Disney World. This opening scrimmage against the Grizzlies will have four 10-minute periods.
There won’t be fans in attendance and, though it might feel like a return to normal in some ways, it will likely be difficult to forget that the scrimmage is being played during a pandemic, at a time when many players are determined that basketball doesn’t overshadow bigger issues in the world such as racism and police brutality.
Here are the essentials for the scrimmage:
When: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Walt Disney World Resort
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Fadeaways from a 7-footer?
In case you forgot, Joel Embiid is the most efficient high-volume post-up player in the league. The Sixers expect him to be double teamed often when play restarts and are preparing as such.
“This camp, one of the things that I have been doing is damn near every time he catches it, we are coming,” Brett Brown said Thursday. “It could be from the high man, from the nail, it could be let's flip him baseline, come baseline. It could be, let's play a little cat and mouse and not come this time, to keep him off balance.”
Even before he rejoined his teammates, Embiid was focusing on how to respond to double teams. He’s especially pleased with one shot that’s somewhat rare for 7-foot, dominant post players to attempt.
“My fadeaways look great,” he said. “I’ve been working on it the past two-and-a-half months, six times a week, just trying to perfect my game in any ways that I can. … That’s something I’m going to need a lot, especially when other teams double me every single possession.
“I can’t let that dictate how I play, so sometimes you’ve got to make the right play. You got to sometimes pass it, and if I feel like I have an open opportunity to be myself and dominate, then that’s a shot I’m going to need. So that’s what I’ve been excited about.”
Limited minutes for the ‘heavyweights’
The Sixers’ key players are all healthy and should all be available today, but the plan is to ease them back into action.
“I suspect you’re going to see somewhere (around) the 20-minute mark for my heavyweights,” Brown said Monday. “… I know that in the scrimmage games, the preseason games, there will be more than enough time to look at different rotations, especially given the lack of extended minutes that our starters will receive.”
The Sixers have been using a new starting lineup at practice, so it’ll be worth tracking how that unit looks in these early stages, even if substitutions are more frequent than in a typical game.
Brown confirmed Friday that Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons and Embiid will indeed start in the first scrimmage. He said he would "be surprised" if every Sixer did not receive playing time (see official roster).
Finding a flow
Brown’s preference is to allow his team to play a fluid, “organic” offense. He doesn’t intend for that to change much with Milton at point guard.
“When there’s a rhythm beat and a purposeful flow to what you’re doing, then I think that’s basketball at its best,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s going to deviate any differently than what I did earlier with Ben or Shake.”
In a scrimmage setting, however, Brown will presumably have to balance that free-flowing philosophy with certain actions he wants his team to work on. Brown has said he feels Milton’s skill set is conducive to the Sixers running more pick-and-rolls, and that he “hopes to be able to do that more, really, than we have in the past.”
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