Sixers Must Adjust Rotations to Make Up for Joel Embiid's Absence

Brett Brown has had to shuffle his lineups countless times throughout his years as commander of "the process."

This time may be his toughest juggling act yet.

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The Sixers announced on Thursday that Joel Embiid suffered a left orbital fracture that will require surgery and a concussion after colliding with Markelle Fultz (see story).

The crunch will be on for Embiid to return for the start of the NBA playoffs. But the pressure is also turned up on Brown, who will have to figure out a new frontcourt mix without the Sixers' centerpiece that can keep the team in position to secure home-court advantage in the first round (see story).

In the immediate aftermath of Embiid's injury, expect veteran Amir Johnson to take over the starting center role. However, Johnson missed the Sixers' last game with an illness, which could open the door for Richaun Holmes.

Whether Holmes gets the start or comes off the bench, Brown is sure the big man will be ready.

"We understand I've been playing Amir over Richaun, and it's getting down to the end of the season. How do people handle that, and I thought Richaun tonight was excellent," Brown said after Holmes put up 15 points (6 for 11 FGs) and seven rebounds in 21:56 of action during the team's 118-101 win over the Knicks. "He really responded well to that and we needed it all."

The Sixers will need even more than just Johnson and Holmes to patrol the paint without their All-Star center. Look for Brown to get creative with both Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova manning the middle in spurts. 

"We played Ersan more at the five than we normally do," Brown said. "… Without Joel, how do I handle it I think is your question, is you do it by committee. You do it by a team, and you buy some time until somebody says that Joel can return to play."

That return remains unknown at the moment, but the Sixers do have a roster - one with serious length - they hope can hold onto that precious home-court advantage in the interim. Brown experimented with some of those looks on Wednesday as the Sixers outscored the Knicks 51-38 during the second half for their eighth straight victory.

"I think you're just always learning," Brown said. "Like tonight, look at the unlikely group we ended the game with. "Saric at five, (Robert) Covington at four, (Marco) Belinelli, (JJ) Redick and Ben (Simmons). They showed there's another level of firepower, offensive firepower, in that group. We're big enough to switch on some stuff [defensively] and keep the game in front of us.

"The team can kind of morph into many different types of looks."

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