The 12-6 Sixers play the 4-14 Knicks at Madison Square Garden Friday night and, on paper, this has the makings of an odd game.
Let's get into the essentials:
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
When: 7:30 ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
More ‘rest' - not ‘load management'
Al Horford is healthy, but he's out for tonight's game. The NBA is now using the term "rest," not "load management," to describe such situations, per ESPN's Zach Lowe.
The team approached Horford with the idea of him sitting some games when healthy before the season. He was bothered by a knee injury throughout last year, which he's said feels fine now.
Horford also sat out the Sixers' Nov. 12 game vs. the Cavs and admitted he did not immediately embrace the idea.
"There was definitely some pushback, but at the end of the day I trust the people, our medical staff," he said.
An interesting note on the "rest" policy that's relevant for the Sixers: According to Lowe, the NBA "has given more leeway to players with chronic injuries and major injury histories," and Joel Embiid is considered among that group. For typical players, Lowe says, the league generally doesn't allow rest for "high-profile" nationally televised games and/or road games, as well as for multiple players in the same game.
Get ready for a debut or two
Along with Horford, the Sixers have several other regular players who are unavailable or might not play.
Per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters, Kyle O'Quinn (left calf strain) is out, Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) is doubtful, Ben Simmons (upper respiratory symptoms) is probable, and Shake Milton and Jonah Bolden are on assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats.
In these circumstances, it certainly wouldn't be surprising to see Norvel Pelle make his NBA debut - he'll the team's only traditional center available besides Embiid. The 26-year-old Pelle is an athletic big man on a two-way contract who's excelled as a shot blocker and lob finisher at lower levels. He was a member of the G League All-Defensive First Team last season.
Rookie Marial Shayok, the Sixers' other two-way player, has also been called up, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Inquirer's Keith Pompey first reported Shayok's call-up. Shayok was named G League Player of the Week for his first week of professional basketball and has averaged 29.5 points in four G-League games.
Two-way players can spend a maximum of 45 days with their NBA team in between the start of G League training camp and the conclusion of the G League regular season. They are not eligible for the playoffs.
Second-year player Zhaire Smith is with the Sixers in New York, too. In five G-League games this season, the 20-year-old guard has averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
Simmons' shooting struggles since The Shot
The last time these teams played, Ben Simmons made the first three-point shot of his NBA career and the Sixers came back from a 17-point deficit to win.
He hasn't made a three since, and has shot 14 for 35 (40 percent) in the past four games. That low efficiency likely won't be a long-term concern, though - Simmons has missed a lot of open shots near the rim that he usually converts.
Brett Brown said before the Sixers' win over the Kings Wednesday that he wants Simmons to shoot more. If Simmons is healthy enough to play tonight, a game against the Knicks with a supporting cast that's far less than full strength would seem to be a good opportunity to do so.
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