Sixers’ Embiid plan lacks respect
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ JackMcCaffery
According to columnist the latest Sixers plan for Joel Embiid shows a lack of respect for the fand and coach Brett Brown.