MCW practices again, says he's 'ready to go'

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MCW practices again, says he's 'ready to go'

Michael Carter-Williams is the most attractive piece of the Sixers’ current puzzle.

His play excites fans and gives them reason to believe a bright future will one day replace this 7-19 state.

Carter-Williams has had two straight practices after dealing with a right knee infection.

With the Nets coming to town on Friday night, will the rookie point guard be in the Sixers’ starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 3?

“He is definitely not definitely,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, getting a chuckle out of the assembled media. “Nobody is making a 100 percent commitment to him playing. We think he is. He has practiced well, so we assume he will be in the lineup.”

“I have had two good practices,” Carter-Williams said. “I felt good. I was shooting after, so I am ready to go.”

Carter-Williams, who has missed the last seven contests, is officially a game-time decision. However, there is plenty of optimism surrounding his status.

MCW certainly spoke like a man that intends to play. He was aware of the Sixers’ scouting report for Friday’s game against Brooklyn, which had plenty to do with slowing down the Nets’ backcourt duo of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

“We can’t let Joe get off early. We can’t let him get in a rhythm,” Carter-Williams said of Johnson, who scored a season-high 37 points against the Sixers on Monday. “We have to make him take tough shots and stay down on Deron and keep him in front. They are tough, tough guards and they are going to be a challenge for us, but we are going to go out there and be aggressive.”

Carter-Williams is not pain free. He said the pain in his knee is a one or a two on the scale of 1 to 10.

Carter-Williams is prepared to deal with some soreness when he gets back out on the court and his coach is ready to see some rust.

“We will be smart, but he will play,” Brown said. “We are not going to wrap him up. We will be smart with it and inch him along. There are going to be some growing pains getting him back in the mix, but we are not going to be too restrictive.

“He is not that precious. He’ll be fine. He’ll get through, it but we will be smart. We are going to have to bite our lip.”

Carter-Williams missed four games earlier in the season with a bruised arch in his foot. When he returned to the court from that injury, he shot just 2 of 10 for 10 points to go along with six rebounds, six assists and six turnovers.

“That was my first time coming back from an injury and this is my second time,” Carter-Williams said. “I am looking to adjust to it and that I am not as rusty as the first time I came back.”

Rusty or not, Brown is just excited to get his floor general back.

“I am thrilled that he is back,” he said. “I am thrilled that he is with me and I am glad that he is a Philadelphia 76er, 22-year-old, rookie point guard.”

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice on Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out on Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period it got kind of (got) sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being a hundred percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014. 

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Update: 4 p.m.

Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.

Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center.

"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."

The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks. He is expected to return Friday against the Rockets, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Sixers are 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him. Brett Brown is looking forward to seeing how the defense responds without its centerpiece Tuesday and Wednesday (see story).

Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.

Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.

CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.