PHILADELPHIA — In character and as part of a lengthening tradition, Joel Embiid was not officially included in the Sixers’ starting lineup Tuesday until a half-hour before a game against the Indiana Pacers.
Always something. This time, something with the hip. So that’s not new. What was different, though, about Nick Nurse’s dilemma was that the Sixers will entertain the Boston Celtics in a game quite likely to impact postseason seeding Wednesday night at 7:30.
In the past, were the Sixers inclined to pace the league MVP in a back-to-back situation, they almost certainly would have chosen to rest him against Indiana and save him for the Celtics. The NBA, though, has encouraged All-Star players to play in games that are also part of the in-season tournament and to be available for all nationally televised games. The Pacers game was part of the tournament; the Celtics game will be broadcast by ESPN.
So … no rest for Embiid, who didn’t immediately show any ill-effects of his latest physical issue, which didn’t even come with a clear cause.
“I don’t think it was in practice,” Nurse said. “I think it was just in the postgame.”
With Embiid saying he plans to play 82 games this season, that did give the Sixers’ ruling panel – Nurse included – complications. Nor was it lost on the Sixers coach that each Sixer would rake in $500,000 should they win the tournament.
“I mean, I think this game carries a little more weight to it, with the Cup and the point differential,” Nurse said. “They are a very good team. They are going to be determined and we have to be really ready.”
For that, Nurse was not looking to mix in a little mid-game rest for any player, even with the Celtics revenge-minded after a recent Wells Fargo Center loss.
“I am going to coach the game that’s in front of me,” he said, “and worry about that other stuff at the end, if we get a chance to worry about it.”
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Kelly Oubre Jr., who had some ribs damaged in a downtown Philly hit-and-run Saturday, is making quick progress toward a return.
According to Nurse, Oubre was in the Sixers’ training complex Tuesday already doing some cardio work.
“I was over at his place Monday,” Nurse said. “He was doing pretty good. He’s in good spirits. He came to the practice facility (Tuesday) and rode the exercise bike. So he is doing OK.”
Nurse’s preference is to replace Oubre in the starting lineup with Nicolas Batum, who was excused from the Tuesday game for personal reasons. With that, Robert Covington started, with Nurse giving Furkan Korkmaz and Danuel House Jr. depth-chart bumps.
Oubre is expected to miss at least a month.
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While there may be some conversation, pro or con, about the NBA in-season tournament, there seems to be a rampaging consensus on one issue: Those artsy, made-for-the-tournament courts are shocking.
The Sixers laid down theirs – basically a sea of red – for the first time Tuesday.
“It’s very colorful,” Nurse allowed, with a big smile. “Very bright. I came into our coaches’ meeting today and there are two big TV’s up on the wall. Both were focused on the court. I walked in and said, ‘Woah.’ So that was my reaction: Woah. It stands out, that’s for sure.”
Nurse figured he would have a more complete critique a few hours later.
“If we win, it’s going to be a great design,” he predicted. “If not? Not so good.”
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said the light-blue tournament court in Indianapolis recently had a bit of an unsettling effect on the players, although they quickly adjusted. Asked if such gimmicks could affect the players’ depth perception, he offered a thinking-coach’s answer: “I’m going to go out on a limb and say the players are probably looking at the basket, not the floor, when they’re shooting.”
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Among the charms of facing a team twice in three days, as the NBA occasionally will allow, is that quick, postseason-style adjustments will ensue. For Carlisle, that meant addressing the 23 offensive rebounds the Sixers gathered in a 137-126 victory Sunday.
Just as significant for Carlisle and every NBA coach is that the offensive rebound – something of an NBA endangered species in the last 10 years as teams have preferred to sprint back and erect defensive walls – is making a comeback.
“It is becoming much more of a trend for a lot of good reasons,” Carlisle said. “It generates more possessions. There is a school of thought that crashing can help decrease transition because guys that would be running are blocking out instead of taking off, and there are many metrics to support the argument.
“We’ve been doing it for a long time. Not everybody has but a lot more people are, and there are certain teams that have been doing it for a while.”
Source: Berkshire mont