Embiid Set to Return
Scanning the gym at practice Tuesday, and again on Wednesday during shootaround, Brett Brown couldn't help but be reminded of the obvious change in scenery.
"Just looking at the team visually, you're like 'Ok, this is a little bit different.'"
That's because on the heels of serving a two-game suspension, the 76ers' 7-foot All-Star was back on the floor.
"There's a presence," Brown said of Joel Embiid. "You look forward to having Joel back in this mix."
In three games this season, Embiid is averaging 23.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks in just 25.3 minutes. His corresponding per-36 minute numbers are currently the highest of his career.
Having the big man in the fold, of course, increases the Sixers' options.
Defensively, for instance, they might now be able to pressure the perimeter a bit more, since one of the NBA's top rim protectors can lurk behind as a security blanket.
On offense, the Sixers will have a powerhouse interior threat to turn to in crunch time if needed.
"It's beneficial both ways," said Brown.
Of great intrigue to the head coach, however, is that Wednesday's contest will offer another opportunity for Embiid to play alongside fellow All-Leaguer Al Horford.
Horford was tremendous in Embiid's absence, combining for 57 points, 10 boards, 11 dimes, and three blocks against the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, respectively.
With Embiid returning, Horford will reprise his role at the starting four spot.
"We can use him for sure in many of the same ways we used him as a five," Brown said Wednesday morning in Salt Lake City. "I think the symmetry of growing Al and Joel together is most definitely on my mind."
The Utah Jazz (4-3) have lost two in a row, but remain unbeaten at Vivint Smart Home Arena (3-0). The club picked up Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic this offseason, adding the talented vets to a core that already consists of two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and budding star Donovan Mitchell.