CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor have been playing under minute restrictions this season. They also will be limited in back-to-backs.
The Sixers have consecutive games on Tuesday at home against the Magic and Wednesday on the road against the Hornets. Embiid will play Tuesday and stay back in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The team is planning for Okafor to sit out against the Magic (he will be suited up and available) and play in Charlotte.
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“In regards to back-to-backs, we always felt that was going to be a challenge,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. “This particular one, given Jahlil’s sort of infant stages into becoming healthier, we’re going to not use up his minutes tomorrow night and then spend our money more in Charlotte.”
The Sixers have 17 back-to-backs this season. Initially, it seemed unlikely Embiid would play in them given he is coming off two years of rehabbing foot injuries. His minutes have been capped at 20 to this point.
Then, Embiid had responded to game action so well during the preseason that the Sixers began to consider the possibility. Earlier in the month, Brown said the likelihood had "certainly progressed from 'no back-to-back' to 'we are looking at it.'"
But the Sixers decided that at this early stage of the season it is more beneficial for Embiid to remain in Philadelphia when he is not playing. He will have the opportunity to go through an individualized workout at the training complex on Wednesday. The Sixers are not scheduled to hold a shootaround that morning in Charlotte.
Okafor has been more restricted than Embiid. After aggravating an injury in the knee on which he had meniscus surgery last March, he was held out until the final preseason game. His minutes were maxed at 16 on Saturday, designated over smaller segments. The team has discussed increasing Okafor's playing time on Wednesday but has not determined a number.
“It’s been tough,” Okafor said of the limitations. “There’s been times where I’ve gotten really frustrated and just wanted to go out there. But overall, it’s been benefitting me. My knee’s feeling really good right now and that’s what I want.”
Okafor will watch the game in uniform on the bench Tuesday. On Wednesday, Brown will look for Embiid to communicate what he sees during the game. The coach exchanges messages with his players at halftime when they are not with the team.
The Sixers will continue to monitor the availability of both Embiid and Okafor for consecutive games as the season progresses.
“I think it’s whatever level is a little bit more planned than week-to-week,” Brown said.
“We feel like we’re getting a better handle on how this all works. There are some variables that you just can’t declare that this is perfectly how it’s going to work out.”