Six­ers’ Em­biid plan lacks re­spect

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Scott Brooks played 680 games in the NBA, each one a blast of over-achieve­ment for an un­drafted, 5-11 guard from Cal-Irvine.

“And now that I look back, I was on a min­utes re­stric­tion ev­ery night,” Brooks was say­ing Wed­nes­day, be­fore coach­ing the Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards against the 76ers. He paused, smil­ing: “I think Jimmy Lynam started that.”

Lynam played who he wanted when he felt it sen­si­ble, guid­ing play­ers through in­juries and slumps and risks, try­ing to make it all make sense 82 games later. And just be­cause that was 28 years ago, it doesn’t mean that it has to be any dif­fer­ent.

So there Brooks was, in a Wells Fargo Cen­ter hall­way, dis­cussing his plans for John Wall, his star point guard. Wall needed twin off­sea­son knee surg­eries and, un­til re­cently, was not ad­vised to play in back-to-back games. But the Wiz­ards would play the Six­ers Wed­nes­day, then host the Knicks Thurs­day, and Brooks would play Wall when­ever he thought was best for the Wiz­ards.

“Tonight?” he said. “It could be any­where from 10 to 48 min­utes.”

He was be­ing a lit­tle play­ful. That, though, was his ap­proach. He’d de­cide as the game went on when to push Wall into the game, and when to min­i­mize his risk of ex­haus­tion. And if it weren’t for the sorry carry-on that had just oc­curred 100 feet away, it re­ally wouldn’t have been notable.

Brooks would play his best player in back-to­back games, and then use his life­time in bas­ket­ball to find a way to min­i­mize any risks. Brett Brown would not have that op­por­tu­nity.

No, there was noth­ing fresh in the re­al­ity that the Six­ers’ coach would be pro­hib­ited by some fuzzy, in-house sports-sci­ence depart­ment from play­ing Joel Em­biid twice in con­sec­u­tive nights, there was some­thing alarm­ing about the way the Six­ers would do it this time.

Though aware of their fans’ en­chant­ment with Em­biid, whom they’d waited two years to see play, the Six­ers made Brown rest the cen­ter Wed­nes­day and in­stead play him Thurs­day in Min­nesota. That was counter to the way it had been done early this sea­son, with Em­biid twice play­ing the first game of a back-to­back, then sit­ting out the sec­ond. That’s what the Six­ers did last week, play­ing Em­biid on Fri­day at home and de­feat­ing In­di­ana, then rest­ing him on Satur­day and los­ing in At­lanta.

For some rea­son, and the head coach had zero knowl­edge of that rea­son, Brown had his or­ders: Rest Em­biid against Wash­ing­ton, play him against Min­nesota.

“I am a re­cip­i­ent of news from our med­i­cal staff,” Brown said. “And I fol­low the in­struc­tion. It’s that re­ally sim­ple.”

So there was no con­sid­er­a­tion of matchups, of mo­men­tum, of lack of mo­men­tum. There was no con­sid­er­a­tion of the fans’ en­joy­ment, par­tic­u­larly those who’d bought tick­ets hop­ing to con­tinue to chant “MVP” and “Trust the Process” while en­joy­ing watch­ing Em­biid score in­side and out, run the floor with pas­sion, block shots and re­bound.

“No,” Brown said. “No. It is re­ally de­signed for what is best for Joel Em­biid.”

Since the Six­ers did or­der Em­biid to sit out for two sea­sons while he re­cov­ered from foot surg­eries, they have cred­i­bil­ity when claim­ing that his health is more im­por­tant to them then their chances to win games. But with the Min­nesota game to be tele­vised by TNT, there was ram­pag­ing spec­u­la­tion that they were also in­trigued by the idea of sell­ing their top play­ers – and any suc­cess of their “process” - to a global au­di­ence, not to fans that had just paid for tick­ets, park­ing and snacks.

“It’s com­pletely ...” Brown said, pre­pared to re­peat him­self, then ad­just­ing. “No. We ex­pect that ques­tion. And it’s just the rhythm that the med­i­cal staff has put him on. With the back-to-back games and the time in be­tween, that if we had a choice, this game was go­ing to be it.”

Ear­lier, the Six­ers let it drip that Em­biid would have been bet­ter pre­pared with an ex­tra day of rest. So since he played Mon­day, he could have two days of rest be­fore fac­ing Min­nesota. But the Six­ers will host Phoenix Satur­day. Whether he played against Wash­ing­ton or Min­nesota, and then against the Suns, Em­biid would have had two days to rest for one of the games, and one day to rest for the other. Same sit­u­a­tion, ei­ther way.

Brown has spent three­plus sea­sons gladly pro­vid­ing cover for what­ever the front of­fice was try­ing. But by Wed­nes­day, he seemed weary of lug­ging that weight. Mean­while, there was Scott Brooks, dis­cussing how he would watch Wall through the night, cal­cu­lat­ing on the fly how best to nurse him through not one game, but two.

That’s what coaches did three decades ago.

That’s what they still do, at least in some places.

To con­tact Jack McCaf­fery, email him at jm­c­caf­fery@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @ Jack­McCaf­fery

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ac­cord­ing to colum­nist the lat­est Six­ers plan for Joel Em­biid shows a lack of re­spect for the fand and coach Brett Brown.

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