GET­TING THERE

Six­ers re­ceive good news on in­jury front

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Terry Toohey Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> On a night when the court was un­playable, a rar­ity in the NBA, there was some good news to come out of the Six­ers camp Wed­nes­day.

Joel Em­biid’s min­utes are up, to 28 per game, Ner­lens Noel is a lit­tle closer to prac­tic­ing with the team and ac­tu­ally play­ing, while No. 1 over­all pick Ben Sim­mons is mak­ing strides from the bro­ken right foot he suf­fered in the pre­sea­son.

The only bet­ter news would have been that all three have been cleared to play, but when you have four wins and most of the pos­i­tive news in­volves in­jury up­dates, you take what you can get, es­pe­cially on a night when a sched­uled game had to be post­poned.

Em­biid had a CT scan Mon­day on his twice sur­gi­cally re­paired right foot that forced him to sit out two sea­sons, and the re­sults were pos­i­tive enough that the Six­ers brass de­cided it was time to add four min­utes to his re­stricted play­ing time. How Six­ers coach Brett Brown will use those min­utes is still up in the air.

Play­ing in back-to-back games is still out of the ques­tion. That has not changed. And

how Em­biid will be used if the game goes into over­time or dou­ble over­time has to be worked out. The 28-minute limit could be bumped up a lit­tle bit in those sit­u­a­tions.

“There’s some wig­gle room there,” Brown said.

So the gloves have not come com­pletely off with Em­biid. The Six­ers are still tread­ing cau­tiously with their prized first-round pick from the 2014 draft, with is fine with Em­biid. Of course, Em­biid will have to wait un­til Fri­day night’s game against the Or­lando Magic to see the in­creased play­ing time ac­tu­ally come to fruition af­ter, but he was happy with the news.

“I’m go­ing to make the most of it,” Em­biid said.

Four min­utes make not seem like a lot. It’s one ex­tra minute per quar­ter, which is noth­ing in a 48-minute NBA game, un­less you look at the num­bers as Brown has. Em­biid is av­er­ag­ing 18.2 points, 7.8 re­bounds and 2.4 blocks while play­ing 22 min­utes a game. But it’s more than that Em­biid’s in­di­vid­ual num­bers.

“We are the sec­on­drated de­fense team in the NBA when he is on the floor,” Brown said. “We go to 30th when he’s not so just us­ing that as an ex­am­ple makes your head spin a lit­tle bit. Those ex­tra four min­utes are sig­nif­i­cant in my eyes.”

And so will be the re­turn of Noel, who has not played since he had surgery to deal with in­flam­ma­tion in his left knee. The Six­ers sent the 6-11 power for­ward/cen­ter to the Delaware 87ers on a re­hab as­sign­ment Wed­nes­day and worked out with the Six­ers’ D-League af­fil­i­ate.

Brown said there is no time ta­ble for Noel’s re­turn. Noel will be back with the team Thurs­day, although Brown was not sure if the big man would prac­tice with the team. Noel is sched­uled to go back to the Sevens Fri­day.

“Slowly, he’s be­com­ing a part of ev­ery­thing we do with weights and film ses­sions,” Brown said of Noel. “We’d like to have him on the court and it seems like any day now.”

Noel and Em­biid went one-on-one at the team’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity the other day, Brown said, and it was quite a sight that only the team got to see. Sim­mons was in­volved, too, but in a lim­ited ca­pac­ity. Sim­mons was on a stool on the side­line, send­ing post feeds to both big men.

“You would have got­ten a kick out of it,” Brown said. “I’m sure it would have erupted on Twitter if it ever got out. It would have gone vi­ral. Those three to­gether, watch­ing them, bring­ing Ner­lens back in and hav­ing Ben be a part of it. I look for­ward to that.”

The ex­tra min­utes for Em­biid and the po­ten­tial re­turn of Noel does present a bit of a prob­lem for Brown. There is al­ready a log­jam on the front court. Em­biid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric and Robert Cov­ing­ton av­er­age 21 or more min­utes per game. Power for­ward Richaun Holmes av­er­ages 16 min­utes per game.

Where does Noel fit in? How much does he play? Those are all ques­tions that have to be an­swered. He could be traded. Noel’s name has popped in nu­mer­ous trade ru­mors on the in­ter­net.

“It’s a good ques­tion,” Brown said. “All I have is this, and I’m fine with this, you will re­ward com­peti­tors. You will re­ward per­for­mance. You’re go­ing to re­ward cer­tain matchups. It’s all I have. You can dance around a bunch of things. It won’t be easy and peo­ple are go­ing to have to ac­cept dif­fer­ent things.”

As for Sim­mons, Brown has spe­cific plans for the first over­all pick.

“My in­ten­tion is to give him the ball and let him be the point guard,” Brown said. “That’s the plan. That doesn’t just hap­pen. It takes a lit­tle time.”

Sam Hinkie called it “The Process” be­fore he was shown the door and yes, it does take time, as Six­ers fans know all too well. They have waited pa­tiently for this team to come to­gether and the pic­ture of what this team will look like down the road is start­ing to come into view.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Joel Em­biid, left, tries to get around Cleve­land Cavaliers’ DeAn­dre Lig­gins, cen­ter, and Kevin Love on Sun­day.

RICK BOWER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Six­ers’ for­ward Ben Sim­mons is pro­gress­ing well from his bro­ken foot suf­fered in the pre­sea­son.

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ner­lens Noel may soon be­gin prac­tic­ing with the team in an­tic­i­pa­tion of his re­turn.

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