The Sixers will conclude their brief preseason Friday night in Indiana without Joel Embiid.
Embiid will not play against the Pacers because of an illness that is unrelated to COVID-19, a team official confirmed. The official said the team is being cautious in keeping Embiid at home to rest.
In the Sixers' preseason opener Tuesday vs. the Celtics, Embiid had 18 points in 17 first-half minutes. Dwight Howard will presumably start in his place.
Here are the essentials for Friday's game:
- When: 6 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m.
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
- Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Rivers not overjoyed
There were several undeniable positives from the Sixers’ win Tuesday, including the confident performance of Shake Milton, good looks for Embiid out of organic offense and signs of the team’s high defensive potential.
Head coach Doc Rivers, however, identified many areas where he thinks the Sixers need to be better.
“I thought our pace was good the other night,” Rivers said Thursday. “I thought there were times we lost our pace, and that hurt us. Just playing through mistakes. This team, with that one game, you can see a couple mistakes ... and everybody’s hanging their heads. We’ve got to just keep playing. Those are little things.
"Transition D has to be better. Pick-and-roll D got rejected I think eight times — that has to be better. We have a lot of work to do, is what I see, and I want to see us improve in this next game.”
No Warren to worry about
The Sixers won’t be facing close to a full-strength Pacers team. Myles Turner is being evaluated for a concussion, T.J. Warren is out with plantar fasciitis and Jeremy Lamb will miss the beginning of the regular season as he rehabs from a torn ACL.
The defensive scheme against Warren would’ve been particularly interesting to track, given that he lit the Sixers up for a career-high 53 points the last time he played them. Dan Burke is now the Sixers’ defensive coordinator after over two decades as a Pacers assistant. Like the Sixers, Indiana is adjusting to a new head coach, Nate Bjorkgren, so it’s not as if Burke will know every Pacers action by heart.
Inching closer to the real thing, amid all the rumors
The Sixers’ regular season begins next Wednesday with a home game against Russell Westbrook and the Wizards. As the team works to be physically ready for its opener and digest Rivers’ playbook and philosophies, who James Harden will play for next remains a prominent story.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey responded to reports Thursday night that the team was willing to make Ben Simmons available in a Harden trade by telling The Athletic’s Shams Charania, “We are not trading Ben Simmons — he is an important part of our future.”
If Harden is traded elsewhere, all of this will go away. But, as long as Harden is on the market, there will inevitably be speculation about his future and whether the Sixers might still be his next destination. A strong start for the team and Simmons would likely quiet some of that buzz, or at least shift the focus.
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