“I really don’t think about it like that,” said Brett Brown in protest, when asked if the game against the Lakers had a special meaning. Brown spoke at length about learning more about his team versus measuring up against LeBron James. Brown said that the only way to slow LeBron James down is to “show him a crowd,” meaning no one would be expected to guard James, who is 18 points from passing Kobe Bryant for 3rd all time in NBA history. Brown and Al Horford both said they paid no mind to those kinds of numbers.
Brown talked about Shake Milton’s ability to run a pick-and-roll as a reason to expect him to get some of the minutes opened up by the hamstring injury to Josh Richardson. Richardson, it was confirmed Friday, will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Joel Embiid returned to practice Friday as a full participant for the first time since injuring the ring finger on his left hand. Embiid, who will remain out Saturday, was dribbling with his left and working through contact for more than hour after practice Friday. While Embiid’s hand is still noticeably swollen, he has made significant progress towards returning to play. He said after practice that he hopes to return next week, assuming his hand responds well to getting slapped and hit during practices over the next few days.
When asked about his All-Star selection, Embiid demurred, saying he was focused on doing what it takes to win a title. The team, however, celebrated the selection briefly at the end of practice in front of assembled media.
Joel Embiid talked about how the team had performed in his absence and specifically called out Furkan Korkmaz. Korkmaz has blossomed this season and earned an important place in the rotation. He has clearly earned the trust of his teammates, including the franchise cornerstone Embiid.
Korkmaz talked about his progression and also the challenge of facing a legend like LeBron James.
When speaking of the challenge of facing a combination of James and Anthony Davis, you have to think that Al Horford will be asked to take on a big role. Although Brown indicated that Matisse Thybulle would be tasked with the initial assignment on James, the rookie has a tendency to foul and gamble. It would be a surprise if Horford did not have a major set of responsibilities in defending the AD/James pick-and-roll.
Zhaire Smith recalled
Zhaire Smith was recalled by the Sixers to replace Josh Richardson in practice. His role on the team in games is unclear, but Brown spoke about his progress in Delaware and how connected the team is with the Blue Coats program.