Joel Embiid has a torn radial collateral ligament of the fourth metacarpal on his left hand, will have surgery Friday and will be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks (see story).
That news obviously alters life considerably for the Sixers. Heading into Thursday night’s game vs. the Boston Celtics, the team was 3-4 this season without Embiid.
How will head coach Brett Brown adjust his schemes and rotations with Embiid sidelined?
Here’s what we learned Thursday:
A reporter asked Brown whether the Sixers would look to play faster in Embiid’s absence.
“What would you do?” Brown asked. “We’re going to walk it up and just try to post Trey [Burke].”
The Sixers’ 99.89 pace is currently 17th in the NBA, but expect that number to rise over the next several games.
Another clear shift for Brown will be using Al Horford as his starting center. Thursday night, Mike Scott will start at power forward.
Horford, after signing a four-year deal this summer, has averaged 12.3 points on 45.3 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
While Brown had recently emphasized the need for Horford, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris to shoot more threes, Horford’s role will now shift.
Just trying to recognize Al for what his strengths are,” Brown said. “Now, all of a sudden, you have to recalibrate a little bit and find a way to get excited to coach the team that we have. All of a sudden, we’re different. We’re just different. I look at this as an opportunity. Nobody’s crying. This is not a woe is me moment — not for me at all, and not for my players. We will take what we have, and what we have, I love. We’re just different than we used to be.
"And so to your point, you now have Al Horford — what’s the gym look like offensively and defensively? Again, we can all guess what it should look like. We’re very lucky to have him, first. And we’re really lucky to have him when things like this happen to Joel.
Brown said Horford will now be more of a “featured guy” and have greater involvement in pick-and-rolls.
‘Putting a blowtorch’ on defensive principles
Though Horford is a smart defender and generally capable against the pick-and-roll, Embiid is elite defensively.
Lineups with Embiid on the floor have a defensive rating 8.5 points better than lineups with him off the court.
While the Sixers typically prefer to drop Embiid on pick-and-rolls, it sounds like their coverages might vary more with Horford at center.
“I’m putting a blowtorch, a bullet — many bullets — into what we used to do," Brown said. "Really. It doesn’t fit. And so shame on me to try to make it fit. We don’t have Joel Embiid. And so when I say blowtorch and bullet, I mean it. It doesn’t mean we have to completely pivot out to wild stuff that could be reckless — I don’t think so. I think it’s just sort of taking the house we’ve lived in and moving the furniture around a little bit.
“That’s what I intend to do. To think we’re going to replicate what we used to do with Joel now with Al so that we make the perimeter people’s world more seamless and comfortable, it can’t happen. There are adjustments now as a team we have to make, as I believe we should.”
The backup center competition
The backup center picture is less clear — Brown said there is no “definitive answer,” though Kyle O’Quinn and two-way player Norvel Pelle are two contenders.
“It is,” he said. “And you look out on the floor and you’re going to see Jonah Bolden come into the team. There are things maybe we can do with other players. I do think that it’s still there … it’s still a competition.”
Brown sees a lot to like in both Pelle and O’Quinn. He raved about O’Quinn’s versatile skill set and called him “like a lumberjack, a street fighter.” He said Pelle is “kind of built out of that Nerlens [Noel], [Clint] Capela type of rim protector, flyer mode.”
With Pelle, it’s worth mentioning that he’s nearing the maximum of 45 days he can spend with the Sixers as a two-way player.
Brown also revealed another notable tweak with his bench: He said he’ll be less inclined to play Burke in lineups alongside Simmons.
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