76ers

Sixers weekly observations: Curious handling of Joel Embiid’s injury, getting the best out of Boban Marjanovic, more

Sixers weekly observations: Curious handling of Joel Embiid’s injury, getting the best out of Boban Marjanovic, more

The Sixers split their first two games after the All-Star break, a win over the Heat on Thursday and a loss Saturday to the Blazers. And, as usual, there was a significant story off the court to supplement the action on it — the team announced Wednesday that Joel Embiid would be sidelined at least a week with left knee soreness.

Here are our weekly observations:

• The handling of Embiid’s injury was curious. Yes, Brett Brown said Embiid had been dealing with knee soreness for a few weeks and playing in the All-Star Game did not impact the injury (see story). If one of the ways the Sixers are treating the injury is “load management,” though, then the logical assumption to make is sitting out the All-Star Game would have benefited Embiid. You’d think resting for the Sixers’ final game before the All-Star break might have made sense, too — the Sixers likely wouldn’t have needed Embiid to beat the Knicks.

To be fair to the Sixers, Embiid has never been the type of personality who easily submits when the subject of load management is raised. He’s a competitor who wants to play as much as he can. That the Sixers were able to convince him to sit, despite an MRI showing no structural damage, is best for all parties involved. Embiid can get healthier, and Brown can have a more springy, dominant “crown jewel” of his team in the playoffs. It’s just that, especially given the Sixers’ lengthy recent history with injuries, the manner in which that decision was arrived at and presented to the public was odd.

• Boban Marjanovic, the man even larger than Embiid who has temporarily taken his spot in the starting lineup, was tremendous in the Sixers’ win over the Heat on Thursday, matching his season-highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds. He showed off his touch around the rim and his underrated ability as a passer (see story).  

He was in a good mood after playing a season-high 27 minutes.

“My mind feels good, so my body must feel good,” he said Friday.

Though his four-point, five-rebound effort in 19 minutes against the Blazers was a return to earth, it wasn’t startling by any means. Anybody who has watched Marjanovic can recognize his struggles defending when drawn away from the rim.

Brown likes the idea of having two massive rim protectors on the floor for 48 minutes every night in Embiid and Marjanovic, but that might not be feasible in the playoffs. Still, you can understand why he wants to give Marjanovic a chance to earn the job as Embiid’s exclusive backup. In theory, his overwhelming size advantage and often-overshadowed skills can mitigate his obvious weaknesses. Whether Brown, in practice, can maximize Marjanovic's talents and afford to keep him on the floor in the postseason is a fascinating, important storyline.

• If you’re a Blazers fan who doesn’t watch the rest of the NBA, you must not think the Sixers are very good. 

Portland has 43 more rebounds than the Sixers in their two matchups this season. And JJ Redick has shot 4 for 21. His 1 for 10 shooting performance Saturday was his worst, percentage-wise, since Feb. 2, 2015, when he went 0 for 1 and played just four minutes for the Clippers against the Nets because of back spasms.

• After falling Saturday night to the now-16-44 Bulls, the Celtics are a game behind the Sixers for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen combined for 79 points. Brad Stevens told reporters he thinks he needs to do a better job. Marcus Smart questioned his team’s will to win. 

None of these facts are meant to rub salt in the Celtics’ wound, but to serve as a reminder that good teams suffer bad losses. Saturday afternoon’s performance falls in that category for the Sixers, but it’s far from a catastrophic defeat unless things snowball.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers' Joel Embiid jokes he'll lose 50 pounds because of food at Disney World

Sixers' Joel Embiid jokes he'll lose 50 pounds because of food at Disney World

The Sixers departed on Thursday for life in the NBA’s quasi-bubble in Orlando.

They stepped on board their flight with a variety of styles. Joel Embiid’s all-white, hazmat suit look was by far the most unique. 

View this post on Instagram

If you need me I’ll be in the bubble 😤 📲

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

View this post on Instagram

⚫️⚪️

A post shared by Kyle OQuinn (@kyle.oquinn) on

The NBA’s health and safe protocols mandate that a player or staff member stays in their individual hotel room — the Sixers are at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel — while the result of the coronavirus test they took at arrival is returned. Another test then must be taken at least 24 hours after that initial test and also come back as negative for one to advance to Phase 4, which includes team activities such as practice. 

Not every player in Orlando has been a fan of the food during this quarantine period and photos like the one Nuggets guard Troy Daniels shared were not the most appetizing. 

This prompted The New York Times’ Marc Stein to report that “player meals won’t look like airline trays after the first 48 hours.”

As the Sixers transition to the next stage of this unprecedented process, Embiid showed his meal on Instagram with some characteristic humor. 

Yes, that last photo is really Embiid, at a Basketball without Borders camp in 2011.

Though Embiid said Tuesday he doesn’t believe in the NBA’s plan to resume play and laid out a number of concerns, he seems to be having as much fun as he can under the unusual circumstances. 

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Twitter drama with Joel Embiid and Kendrick Perkins involves liked and deleted tweets

Twitter drama with Joel Embiid and Kendrick Perkins involves liked and deleted tweets

Joel Embiid doesn’t tweet much nowadays.

He appeared to make a statement, though, via a recent tweet he liked.

ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins on Wednesday night criticized Embiid for noting he “hated” the NBA’s plan to restart the season at Disney World and still does not think it’s safe enough. Perkins’ reaction was devoid of empathy and did not address Embiid’s legitimate concerns, instead framing Embiid's comments as "just an excuse."

Embiid then liked a tweet showing “prime Kendrick Perkins,” which features air balled jumpers, ungainly charges and many other lowlights. 

Perkins later felt compelled to reply with a reel of more positive NBA moments for himself. 

A champion with the 2008 Celtics, Perkins averaged 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 782 NBA games. A three-time All-Star, Embiid has career averages of 24.1 points and 11.5 rebounds. There's clearly a disparity. 

There was another layer to the mini-drama Thursday afternoon as Perkins reacted to Embiid wearing a hazmat suit before boarding the Sixers’ flight to Orlando.

Perkins tweeted the following in response to Embiid’s attire: 

However, according to a slew of Twitter users commenting on that post, Perkins initially sent and then deleted a harsher message that told Embiid he should have opted out.

While Perkins’ antics have been foolish, they shouldn’t overshadow Embiid’s legitimate concerns. Perkins does not seem to acknowledge that it's possible to weigh various factors before making a difficult decision, which is what Embiid has done by choosing to travel to Orlando despite being wary of playing during a pandemic, and in an area where cases have recently spiked. 

The Sixers’ first game at Disney World is scheduled for Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers (see schedule).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers