Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was happy with how his first game of the season went, as talk of a minutes restriction faded for both he and the team. With that out of the way, Embiid is pushing to get into back-to-back games going forward.
The 76ers center said after Thursday’s practice that he had no idea when he would be cleared to play on consecutive nights.
“I’m actually going to ask them the question,” Embiid said, referring to the team’s medical staff. “Hopefully, I get to play in back-to-backs.”
This Sixers’ first back-to-back comes this weekend. They’ll entertain the Boston Celtics in Friday’s home opener at the Wells Fargo Center, then play the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. If the franchise player sits out a game, it would most likely be the road contest.
Embiid didn’t play on consecutive nights last season because of his right foot. He had two operations on the navicular bone, preventing him from playing in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Embiid played 26 minutes, 57 seconds in Wednesday’s 120-115 season-opening loss to the Washington Wizards. He believes he’s ready to handle playing around 26 minutes a night on consecutive days.
“Yesterday I played, and my body feels great today,” Embiid said. “My knee feels amazing. So I feel like if I have to play today, I would play depending on how I feel. But I feel like I’m ready.”
He actually played eight minutes longer than expected.
During the game, the Sixers sports science staff monitored how Embiid responded to the pace of play. There were only a chunk of minutes when they deemed the game was played at a torrid pace while he was on the floor. They also took into account that he rested for 24 real-time minutes when he left the game at end of the third quarter.
So the Sixers may have a couple of options this weekend.
They could decide to limit his minutes regardless of how he feels in Friday’s game. That could ensure that he’ll be fresh enough to play in both of this weekend’s games. The team could also do what it did on Wednesday. Then based on how his body recovers, they could make a decision Saturday morning about that night’s game.