Joel Embiid played five on five for about 75 minutes on Saturday afternoon at the Sixers’ Camden practice facility.
It was more or less a test run for Sunday’s uber-important tilt against the Pacers, but Embiid didn’t come out of the session feeling totally confident in his readiness.
“Saturday it basically told me that I wasn’t ready, because after every game I was on the floor crying for my life,” Embiid joked after the Sixers’ 106-89 victory. “I didn’t think I was going to come in and play. The goal of this (Indiana) game was basically we thought I could only play 24 minutes and depending on my conditioning, I told them ‘let’s just go with the flow of the game’ and I’m glad we got a chance to rest me at the end.”
Embiid wound up playing just under 28 minutes in the win. He isn’t entirely sure what restrictions the medical staff might suggest moving forward, and said no determination has been made regarding back-to-back games.
“We haven’t talked about it,” said Embiid. “I’m sure at some point they’re going to want me to miss another game just to make sure they deliver me to the playoffs in great shape and healthy, which I’ve been the whole season. I was just unfortunate (with the knee). You just gotta go with the flow. If I feel great, and my body feels good, I’m not missing anything.”
There’s a lot to like about the Sixers’ back end schedule, which features a number of winnable games. The tricky thing is navigating those back-to-backs, two of which involve Boston and Milwaukee, and the third taking us to the season finale, which may or may not matter depending on what playoff seeding looks like at the time:
As you well know, medical communication hasn’t exactly been a Sixer strength over the years, be it internally or externally. One-week outlooks often extend into two or three week absences. You have the Markelle Fultz saga, which is thankfully over, plus every assortment of various complications popping up here and there (Zhaire Smith’s allergy problem, for example).
One of things Joel reiterated last year was his desire to have a say in the medical process, the idea that his voice was being heard by the medical staff in a forum that would best be described as a two-way street.
I asked him about that on Sunday, if the communication between himself, doctors, and the coaching staff is healthy and positive in 2019:
“Oh yeah, it’s way better. This year it’s all about working together. Last year I kind of felt like I was kind of stuck, where I didn’t want to be on minute restrictions and I wanted to play games but I was just forced not to play, I guess. This year it’s all about working together, the owners, the front office, they’ve been doing a great job of it, just communicating. Elton (Brand) has been amazing. It’s all about communication. They understand me. They understand how I have to play and that I want to play. If I tell them that I’m good, I want to play, then they’ll let me play. Then again, usually I don’t go up to them, but I did go up to them (this time around) and told them I might need a couple of games off. We just got on it and worked together.
Mike Sielski at the Inquirer jumped on that response with a follow-up question, asking if the communication has been better since Elton Brand took over as General Manager in the summer.
“Oh yeah, Elton has been amazing. He’s been doing a great job. That’s uh, I guess fresh air.”
“Fresh air” is an interesting and probably accurate way to describe the change from Bryan Colangelo to Elton Brand.
Embiid also said that he’s been working with a physical therapist in New York, “Kim,” who he’s been with for a few years now. He also works with a guy from Aspetar, the Qatari-based orthopedic and sports medicine hospital that does rehab and other types of work with a number of international athletes.
“We brought him over here and he’s been taking care of me every single day, just making sure everything is good,” said Embiid of the Aspetar therapist. “Kim, she’s been amazing. The guys from the team have been doing a great job and I’m really thankful.”