Philadelphia 76ers

Next step in Joel Embiid's evolution is disciplined preparation

Next step in Joel Embiid's evolution is disciplined preparation

A shade over 20 points, nearly eight rebounds and over two blocks per game — all on a minutes restriction after being sidelined for the previous two years because of foot injuries.

Joel Embiid dominated over 31 contests as a rookie last season. Yet, there still is room for development from the 23-year-old big man. As Sixers head coach Brett Brown sees it, some of the most significant growth will happen away from the court. 

“I think it has nothing to do really with his game. It’s not his jump hook. It’s not his defense. It’s his health,” Brown said last week while previewing his Coach’s Clinic. “Helping him better understand how to consistently play NBA basketball is most on my mind.”

Embiid underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery in late March to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He has not played in an NBA game since Jan. 28. There has been no definitive timetable set for his return this coming season. Embiid has been working out at the Sixers’ training complex, but he has not been participating in 5-on-5 activity. The objective of his rehab is to be healthy for opening night on Oct. 18. 

“To take basketball away, as it has been taken away because of injuries, there’s a sullenness, there’s a body language that you feel for him,” Brown said. “He’s had some rough luck. I see an excited player starting to come back. We sure will be excited to have him back.” 

Once again, Embiid will have to practice patience. He was limited to 28 minutes a night and held out of consecutive games last season. The Sixers have 14 pairs of back-to-backs on the 2017-18 schedule. It is unlikely Embiid will start the season without some type of restrictions. 

“The competitive side that Joel possesses is not to be denied,” Brown said. “Helping him really prepare his body, helping him be able to play NBA basketball in multiple games and back-to-backs, all those types of things, that’s a health thing, that’s a discipline thing.”

Embiid already proved what he can do on the floor. Next step, staying healthy for a full season.

“The preparation to go play a game, the pre-hab stuff, the discipline of getting yourself ready is always an evolution for any player,” Brown said. “Joel’s no different.” 

Sixers to hold Blue-White Scrimmage at the Palestra on Oct. 1

Sixers to hold Blue-White Scrimmage at the Palestra on Oct. 1

If you’re a die-hard Process believer who can’t wait for the Sixers' preseason opener, you’ll have a chance to see the team in action three days prior, albeit in a scrimmage.

The Sixers announced Thursday that they will be holding a Blue-White Scrimmage on Oct. 1 at the Palestra from 1-3:30 p.m. Tickets will be free to the public.

“The building strongly represents the toughness and perseverance of the city of Philadelphia and of the 76ers organization,” coach Brett Brown said.

While Joel Embiid likely won't play in the scrimmage (see story), the event is a good opportunity to see No. 1 picks Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. Fultz’s summer league campaign was cut short by a sprained left ankle.

The scrimmage is also an early chance to get a sense of what Brown’s rotation may look like this year, his fifth with the Sixers and first in non-tanking mode.

The preseason will begin at Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 4, against the Memphis Grizzlies. The first game of the regular season is on Oct. 18, a nationally televised contest vs. the Wizards in Washington, D.C.

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss the biggest challenge for head coach Brett Brown this season.

Camerato
For years Brett Brown has faced the challenge of piecing together a shorthanded roster to put some kind of, any kind of, rotation on the floor. This season he will have healthier players to work with, and that in itself will pose a different set of challenges.

Brown has a young roster that is eager to play. Former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has been waiting nearly 12 months to make his NBA debut since suffering a Jones fracture on the last day of training camp. Markelle Fultz, this year’s top pick, has not played since mid-February as a student-athlete at Washington. Joel Embiid last suited up on Jan. 27 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

These hungry players, and it is not limited to only the three mentioned above, will want to be in the game as much as possible. Brown will be tasked with managing eagerness and anxiousness to play all while following medical guidelines and restrictions. Lineups could change from a night to night based on player availability (back-to-backs, rest, etc.). Brown will have to establish consistency and flexibility at the same time, also keeping his players on board even if they can’t be on the court as much as they would like to be.

Haughton
Brett Brown will face a whole new world as head coach of the Sixers in 2017-18. He’ll have to find a way to make a rookie backcourt work, mix contributing veterans into the fold and, for the first time in his tenure, face some semblance of pressure to win.

But Brown’s biggest obstacle next season has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or wins and losses. The coach must maintain the spirit of the process.

At first glance, you may think that has something to do with continuing to lose games for the highest possible draft pick. No, not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

In Brown’s four years at the helm, the Sixers have lost a combined 253 games. Some close, some by a wide margin and far too many of the nightmarish variety.

But no matter the previous game’s score, Brown always had his players on the court for the next matchup ready to give their max effort. His ability to stay positive amid the mounting losses and still push his guys to play all out every single night is somewhat remarkable (see story). It’s what the players love about him the most.

The egos that go along with high-level talent and the pressure of playoff aspirations mean Brown is sure to encounter some new challenges. However, it may just be that process mentality that gets the Sixers fully over the process.

Hudrick
For the last four years, Brown has barely had enough healthy players to form an entire team. And even when he had healthy players, most of them were borderline D-Leaguers (now G-Leaguers, of course).

The blessing and the curse for Brown this season is having real, NBA talent up and down his roster.

Nerlens Noel is gone so the logjam at center is over, right? Nope. Embiid is your starting center and franchise cornerstone. Richaun Holmes proved last year that he is a capable backup at the pro level. Jahlil Okafor is still here and needs to prove he's healthy if the Sixers hope to move him. Oh yeah, the team also went out and signed veteran Amir Johnson away from the Celtics. The uncertainty behind Embiid's status means there will be minutes available, but how many? Bottom line: This team still has four NBA-caliber centers.

The newest challenge for Brown is an overabundance of guards/wings. With Fultz, JJ Redick and a now healthy Jerryd Bayless added to the mix, where does that leave T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nik Stauskas, Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz?

Sure, it's a nice problem to have, but figuring out the rotation on an improving roster will be the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season.