The Sixers were dealt another reminder of Joel Embiid’s minute restrictions when their centerpiece player was sidelined for double overtime against the Grizzlies.
Embiid squeezed out an extra three minutes beyond his 24-minute limit in the first overtime. He was on the court long enough to attempt the game-winner (as he did in regulation). But when the game went into double OT, he had reached his max. The Sixers were outmatched without him and lost 104-99 (see Instant Replay).
“It was frustrating,” Embiid said. “But those guys, they care about me. They’re looking out for me, so you’ve got to trust the process.”
He also wanted to stay in the game knowing he was going to sit out Friday's matchup against the Bulls for rest.
Embiid has been adhering to a minutes restriction mapped out by the Sixers' medical staff in his first season back after missing two years with foot injuries. The team does not plan to revisit his playing time until Christmas, at which point there is a possibility it could stay the same.
In an ideal world, Embiid would like to play every minute on the clock. Brett Brown would prefer to have him on the court, too. Instead, even when the game is on the line, they have to follow the guidelines designed to help the longevity of Embiid’s career.
“There it is, on your bench, 10 feet from me,” Brown said. “It’s very tempting. But you just can’t do it. It’s a bigger world that we’re living in. It’s a far greater vision, a much longer vision that we see. Really, games like tonight, as much as it stings and as much as he was close by and was playing at the level that we saw, it’s just not wise to do it. That’s the discipline that we have to have.”
Embiid keeps track of his minutes, as they are broken down into four-minute segments. He knew he was nearing his cut-off after regulation (24:25) and “kind of begged" the staff to play in the first overtime, in which he logged 2:45. Brown said there is a “little bit of wiggle room from time to time,” in this case bumping Embiid up to 27:10.
“I always ask how many minutes did I play just to make sure they don’t play me less,” Embiid said.
Embiid recorded a double-double with 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. The Sixers noticed his absence, especially up against the big man duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. They combined for 10 of the Grizzlies’ 18 points in the overtimes. The Grizzlies also scored eight of 18 points in the paint during those two periods.
“The biggest thing is defensively,” Jerryd Bayless said. “We have a lot of guys that do a lot of good things, but you can’t replace 7-2 or 7-3 and athletic. That changes the game. When we need to get stops it just gives us a different element.”
Embiid is looking forward to the time when he gets the green light to play without limitations. He feels he will have a better rhythm and an improved understanding of the NBA, of which he only has 11 games experience.
“It’s going to feel great,” he said. “I can’t wait for that day to come.”
Until then, Embiid and the Sixers will have to work to put away the game when he is on the court.
“You see how much us wants to help us try to win and how competitive he is,” Brown said. “That’s a hard life to live, isn’t it? From everybody’s perspective — coaches, teammates, Joel, fans. But it’s just the way it is.”