PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are the only team that can stop Joel Embiid.
Perhaps the best center in the East starts a West Coast road trip on the bench.
Something called “load management.”
Oh, Sixers fans think the excuse to sit Embiid is a load of something, for sure.
Embiid hasn’t been hurt in months and has dominated so far, averaging team highs with 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds. His big numbers on the stat sheet finally draw more headlines than his social media posts.
Embiid can just about do it all – except shed the “handle with care” sticker the Sixers seemed to have stamped on his uniform. Yes, Embiid has a medical chart as thick as a playbook, but the Sixers have decided to rest him Tuesday against the Utah Jazz as they monitor his number of games and minutes. Embiid has averaged 27.6 minutes and played in eight of nine games. He’ll miss the one four days after the Sixers beat Indiana.
“I follow the instruction of our medical people, and there is completely a thought-out plan why this plan has been recommended,” coach Brett Brown said Monday at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden, New Jersey. “If it requires more information, they will be the ones to explain why they decided to make this recommendation.”
Translation: Brown says the decision to rest Embiid is out of his hands.
Embiid’s matchup against 7-foot-1 Jazz center Rudy Gobert would have been one reason for Sixers fans to stay up late on Tuesday. Without Embiid, Philadelphia will be challenged to keep its four-game winning streak alive. The Sixers (5-4) open a nine-day, five-game road with their first winning record in November since 2012 and first time overall since Nov. 13, 2003.
Richaun Holmes, Amir Johnson and maybe even Jahlil Okafor will get minutes against the Jazz.
Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons have made the Sixers an early season surprise, and their record is a boost for a franchise that underwent one of the more painful NBA rebuilding efforts in decades.
The Sixers also play games at Sacramento, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. All teams on the trip except for the Kings have at least a .500 record. Embiid is expected to play against the Kings.
The Sixers have won four straight games for the first time since January.
“That means we’re growing and we’re learning,” Embiid said.
J.J. Redick scored 31 points and hit eight 3s in Philly’s win over Indiana on Friday and suddenly seemed worth every bit of the $23 million the Sixers will pay him this season. The Sixers tied a team record against the Pacers with 18 3s.
They will need more of that on the road from Redick — and there’s little reason to expect Simmons won’t continue to play like a top candidate for rookie of the year.
Simmons had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against the Pacers for his second triple-double of the season. He joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only rookies with multiple triple-doubles in the first nine career games. Simmons also has five double-doubles.
Embiid and Simmons are each averaging at least 18 points and nine rebounds per game and are two of nine NBA players with such averages. The only other pair of teammates on the list is the New Orleans Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
“When everyone’s scoring, doing their thing, I think it’s hard to stop us,” Simmons said.
They’re much harder to stop with Embiid in the lineup.
Brown and the Sixers would like to try that out on a more regular basis.