Backup big man problem behind Joel Embiid highlighted by injuries

Backup big man problem behind Joel Embiid highlighted by injuries

With Joel Embiid possessing the greatest injury risk of any superstar, it remains mystifying that the Sixers continue to have trouble finding a consistent backup big man behind him. A center off the bench for the Sixers could be starting around 15 or even 20 times per season given potential rest for Embiid or whenever he’s banged up. More importantly, that player may even be getting spot starts in the playoffs, as Ersan Ilyasova and Amir Johnson each started a game against the Heat last April when Embiid was sidelined. 

Embiid has been out for the Sixers’ last three games with left knee soreness and will be out once again Thursday night against Oklahoma City. Boban Marjanovic will also be inactive as he deals with a right knee bone bruise, leaving the Sixers with just Johnson, Justin Patton and rookie Jonah Bolden as the only available bigs for the team in their matchup with the Thunder.

The injury to Marjanovic only highlights this glaring depth issue. Despite putting up Wilt-like offensive numbers in a small amount of minutes throughout his career, he remains a statue defensively, prone to lapses against any big man with any semblance of speed or an outside shot. He’s a matchup-dependent player who will be needed against the likes of Marc Gasol in the postseason, but may get run off the court against stretchy bigs in the mold of Al Horford, Brook Lopez and Myles Turner. 

How did the Sixers go from the team with “too many” big men, rostering all of Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes at one point, to this?

Poor drafting over the last handful of years is the main culprit. Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, was a bust from the minute he punched some House of Pain-loving guy in Boston during his rookie campaign. Noel, the sixth overall pick in 2013, and the organization at large seemed to detest one another during his last two seasons in Philly, leading to an underwhelming return for a defensively gifted big at the 2017 trade deadline. Holmes, a high second-rounder in 2015, never possessed the defensive awareness that Brett Brown demands from his bigs and he was promptly shipped off to Phoenix without much fanfare this past offseason.

Those guys were Sam Hinkie’s picks, but Bryan Colangelo completely bungling the 2016 and 2017 drafts only made a bad situation worse. 

The Sixers held two late first-rounders in 2016 that they used on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz, respectively. The fact that the Raptors’ blossoming young power forward Pascal Siakam was taken three spots after TLC and just one pick after Korkmaz stings more and more each game. Siakam is a defensive monster with a continuously improving three-point shot who could’ve worked alongside Embiid to create the league’s best defense or functioned as a Draymond Green-lite role player alongside Ben Simmons with Embiid on the bench. 

There’s the infamous 2017 case of Anzejs Pasecniks, a Latvian big man, who, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure, I’ve dedicated my Twitter account to slandering. Ol’ Big Collar needlessly traded a future first rounder from Oklahoma City for the right to move up and select Pasecniks, who is about five years away from being five years away. For all the talk of Dario Saric never coming over, this is actually the guy who is never coming over. Imagine Darko Milicic with the frame of a greased up light pole on Broad Street. Imagine Nikoloz Tskitishvili with a Latvian passport. This is the player Colangelo, through the transitive property of trades, acquired for Jerami Grant, a small-ball big currently guarding every position on the court and knocking down the occasional corner three for the Thunder. 

Maybe the simplest solution in the meantime is to let Bolden, who has flashed promise at times, go through whatever growing pains that are disauding Brown from giving him consistent minutes or to play super small at times with lineups that have Simmons as the team’s tallest player on the court. This problem isn’t simply going away when Embiid returns to the floor though. 

While talks of whether the Sixers can re-sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will rightfully dominate this offseason, the team’s backup center situations remains an intriguing subplot. Armed with their own first rounder and two top-35 picks from Chicago and Cleveland, respectively, hitting on one of those selections needs to be a priority for Elton Brand and his front office.

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

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Wooder ice is a personality trait and no one can tell us otherwise. 

Here in Philadelphia, we don't mess around when it comes to our declarations of love for our favorite foods. And we take it quite seriously which type of food aligns with our personality traits as a result. 

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A deep investigation into all the Philly sports references in The Office

NBC Sports Philadelphia

A deep investigation into all the Philly sports references in The Office

I have invested a great deal of time in binge-watching NBC’s The Office on more than one occasion, with the most recent instance taking place during this period of quarantine.

One of the best aspects of the show, is its location — its proximity to the city we know and love. 

According to Dwight K. Schrute, Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch is only a 30-minute trip to Philadelphia if you drive 240 miles per hour — which to be very clear, we don’t recommend. 

So it’s really no surprise that the characters have often discussed things that we hold near and dear to our hearts in this city: cheesesteaks and Philly sports. 

In fact, we have compiled a list of 20 mentions, references, and reminders of Philly sports across 19 of the show’s 201 total episodes. 

S1E1: Pilot


Meet Ryan Howard.
I’ll leave it at that. 

S1E5: Basketball

The lack of Sixers t-shirts during the matchup between The Office versus The Warehouse was quite disappointing, but this absolutely incredible find made up for it: a mask eerily similar to Joel Embiid’s mask in the 2018 playoffs and a Mike Scott.


Foreshadowing two greats, perhaps?

S2E3: Office Olympics

If you look closely, you’ll notice a Mike Lieberthal bobblehead on Dwight’s desk. A nod to the Phillies, right? Sure. But the reference goes deeper than just the red and white pinstripes. 

Mike Lieberthal’s full name is Michael Scott Lieberthal. Mind blown? 


S3E23: The Job

When interviewing for a job at the corporate office, CFO David Wallace jokes around with Jim about his candidacy for the position because he’s a Sixers fan. Clap your hands, indeed, Halpert.

S3E18: The Negotiation

Jim’s then-girlfriend complains about his priorities, saying, “You would rather sit on your couch and watch a Phillies game than go out to a movie with your awesome girlfriend.”

What is the issue here, exactly?

S4E9: Local Ad

Jim shows Pam Dwight’s profile in the game Second Life when she notices that Jim gave his character a job as a sports writer in Philadelphia. 

Careful what you wish for, Beesly.
S4E15: Night Out

Ryan Howard pretends to be The Big Piece at a club.
Again, just going to leave it at that.

S4E16: Did I Stutter?

Ryan calls Jim into the conference room to ask the question we Eagles fans hate: Why?

Well, he really asks “How?” but you get the point. 

S5E18: Blood Drive

Kevin Malone recaps his worst breakup, saying, “We were reading the paper and I said, ‘Oh my God, I think the Eagles could clinch the NFC East.’ And she said that we’re done.” 

The Eagles, of course, had some fun with that: 

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Like if you’ve always believed. #FlyEaglesFly

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S6E6: Mafia

This one was a sneaky one. Jimbo has made it pretty clear that he’s a Philly sports guy, but his love spreads as far as the Arena Football League, too. If you look closely at his desk when Kevin “moves in” during the Halpert honeymoon, you can see a football with what looks like the AFL logo on its side. Philadelphia Soul fan, huh?

S7E8: Viewing Party

Jim changes the channel during the company’s Glee viewing party.

S9E1: New Guys

In an effort to become friends with one of the new guys, Pete, Jim asks if he’s a fan of the Phillies. After a couple of *coughs* stupid answers, Pete says he’s a Red Sox fan.


S9E2: Roy’s Wedding

During the car ride back from Roy’s wedding, Pam tells Jim about a past plan to surprise him with Sixers tickets for his 30th birthday. Jim, already knowing about the gift, laughs with his wife about her mistake of buying courtside seats to an away game in Phoenix. 

An away game nowadays? With their record on the road? Dodged a bullet there.

S9E3: Andy's Ancestry 

At the end of this episode, Jim tells Pam that he’s accepted an offer at Athlead, a sports marketing agency in Philadelphia.

S9E10: Lice

Kevin, Darryl, and Jim talk about the Sixers during their lunch break. 

Later in that episode, Jim has a meeting with Sixers legend, Julius Erving. 

A little 1-on-1 with Dr. J? Sure, no biggie.


S9E14: Vandalism

At the 11:10 minute mark, the Philadelphia Flyers show up on the bottom of this presentation board on the bottom right corner at Athlead, the first reference we could find regarding the Flyers in any capacity. 

Additionally, there are quite a few Eagles names on here, inlcuding Nick Foles,  Jason Kelce and Kurt Coleman and even Andrew McCutchen, though it would be prior to him joining the Phillies of course. 

S9E18: Promos

Ryan Howard (yes, THE Ryan Howard) has a meeting at Athlead with Jim and Darryl. During their conversation, he shares his screenplay for “The Big Piece.”

The other Ryan Howard even sent him a special video message during his retirement ceremony at Citizens Bank Park in one of the greatest crossovers we have ever seen.


S9E20: Paper Airplane

Jim gets a call from a colleague over at Athlead and asks if they’ve heard back from Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels yet. 

S9E21: Livin’ the Dream

The last mention I noticed came from the final season’s 21st episode. Jim is once again trying to connect with Pete, saying “Go Phillies, right?” before realizing Pete stinks and doesn’t watch the beautiful game of baseball.

There you have it, all of the mentions we could find in this show regarding Philly sports, except the Flyers, which we are still unsure if Halpert is a fan of or not. 

And before anyone gets spicy and feels the need to tell me how bored I must have been for doing this, just remember, you’re the one reading this.


We also unearthed this deleted scene that references The one and only Answer at 1:48 in this clip below.


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