The temptation is there. It would be so easy for Brett Brown to look down the bench and call for Joel Embiid when he sees the opportunity for the big man to make a difference. Brown’s challenge though, is coaching close games knowing he can’t turn to his leading scorer.
Brown is following the team’s 24-minute restriction for Embiid, who missed the last two years with foot injuries. The plan has been laid out methodically by the Sixers’ medical staff. Brown is tasked with implementing it in segments over four quarters.
This results in Embiid being on the sidelines during key stretches. Following the Sixers 112-108 loss to the Cavs on Sunday (see story), Brown said he has thought about what it would be like if he could play Embiid whenever he wanted, but reiterated that is not an option.
He views Embiid with a bigger picture in order to fight through the urge in individual games.
“You come up with some really hard decisions that maybe don’t favor me or us or whatever, but for the long-term lens that we all have, we have to be responsible with Joel Embiid and our players,” Brown said. “We all get what we got in Joel Embiid. Winning a game in the middle of November in 2016 for what really matters, sometimes, that takes a backseat.”
On Sunday, Embiid played 25 minutes and 11 seconds, just over his allocation. In the fourth quarter, in which the Cavs sealed a comeback win, he was available for eight minutes and 23 seconds. He scored 12 points in that stretch.
“His ability to not only score in the post but shoot the ball, it keeps the defense off balance,” LeBron James said. “You’ve just got to continue to work the defense, work your habits and work the gameplan more than anything.”
Brown also was faced with a similar situation on Wednesday against the Grizzlies. Embiid had a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double through the first overtime. He had played past his restriction with 27 minutes, and was held out of the second OT. The Grizzlies bigs dominated en route to a 104-99 win.
The Sixers do not plan to revisit Embiid’s minutes until Christmas time. He is not playing in back-to-backs, including Monday’s game against the Raptors and will not travel to Toronto (see story).
“That is not my place. It really isn’t,” Brown said of increasing Embiid's minutes. “I feel, and I’ve said this to everybody, I’m a steward of our business, our organization. I need to do what’s right for the team and the organization. That’s the bottom line. That’s what I try to do always.”