Joel Embiid waited a long time to really start his career in earnest. After missing two years with a Navicular bone injury and then the last half of his rookie year with a Meniscus tear, Joel was hyper-focused on playing as much as possible this season.
Summer 2018 was the first offseason that Embiid was truly able to be healthy and prepare in a normal way for the grind of an 82 game NBA season. After all of the talk of load management and minutes restrictions, it was clear that he had a mission this year on multiple fronts.
Embiid wants to be thought of as someone who can lead a team on a nightly basis. He wants to be in the MVP conversation. He is tired of his dominance carrying the caveat “When Healthy.” And so far in 2018, Joel has done everything possible to eradicate those lingering caveats.
Joel has played in all 26 games so far this season, averaging 34 minutes per game in what has been one of the NBA’s most grueling schedules for the first two months. Overall, Joel Embiid is 2nd in minutes played this season which would have been almost inconceivable 2 years ago.
So Joel needs rest; his fatigue was evident in Toronto, and his numbers have been declining over the past week or so.
Timing of the Rest
Friday night against the Pistons, in Detroit, was sort of the perfect spot to get rest. The team does not play again until Monday night at home against the same Detroit Pistons. This will give Joel four days of rest and recovery. The Sixers do not play another back to back game until next weekend. That will be quite telling to see if he regains his energy level to the point where he can be productive in back to backs or if there is some further management of his time needed.
For the Sixers, however, this is a huge loss. The team has plenty of options offensively. They will miss Embiid’s 26 points and 13 rebounds less than his presence on defense. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, Joel plays the “Batman” role on defense, and neither Amir Johnson nor Mike Muscala have the recovery, athleticism, or timing to play this role nearly as effectively.
Other Batman Options
You could argue that Norvel Pelle, playing for the Delaware Blue Coats, or Jonah Bolden may be better suited for that role defensively, but Brett Brown is developing a level of trust in veterans and is unlikely to go that route. It is worth watching, however, for the future to see what Elton Brand does to shore up the backup big spot. He needs to find a way to ensure that the team has viable options for 48 minutes of the Batman role.
As discussed in the previous story, that role allows the 76ers perimeter defenders to defend the three point line more aggressively and switch 1-4.
In all, it would be unfair to expect Joel Embiid to play 82 regular season games, and the timing of this rest is nearly ideal.