Cooney: Sitting Embiid hard for Sixers' fans to process

Joel Embiid hurts knee
Sixers' center Joel Embiid lays on the floor after injuring his leg against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, January 20, 2017 in Philadelphia.

THE DEFINITION of process: A series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result.

An hour and 15 minutes before the 76ers took the court, where they dumped the Sacramento Kings by 122-119 in a makeup game of one that was condensationed out, the team's public relations director answered the most asked question in Philadelphia, one that is brought up almost on a daily basis. "Joel Embiid is out and won't travel to the team's next two games (in Dallas and San Antonio)." It will be determined whether he catches up with the team for the final two games of that road trip, in Miami on Saturday and Detroit on Monday.

The local Twitter world caught fire as disappointed fans let their frustrations be known to any and all who follow, like or retweet. "This is a joke." "How can I trust The Process with news like this?"

Those were just a couple of the many, many tweets that questioned the team's decision to withhold Embiid from the floor because of a bruised left knee suffered a week ago Friday in an awkward fall after a hellacious dunk.

The contention isn't mean-spirited, for the most part. Really it's because when Embiid sits, the electricity in the city seems to go out, much as the lights did at the Wells Fargo Center about an hour before Monday's game. The energy level when he sits rivals that of a child in need of a nap, as opposed to the sugar-fueled kid that an Embiid presence ignites.

So what is the real reasoning behind Embiid missing the last two games after playing in Friday's nationally televised matchup against the Houston Rockets in which he scored 32 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dealt four assists, had three steals and a couple of blocks in 28 minutes of what appeared to be pain-free basketball?

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Brown did utter the word "setback" when talking about Embiid before Monday's game against Sacramento. If that is solely the case, then it is a good idea to get the soreness out and return him when, and only when, the pain is gone. What is troubling, though, is why was Embiid put back in the game that Friday night against Portland after he suffered the injury? And why the one-game stint against Houston? Did national television come into play?

"It wasn't, 'Let's force feed him into a nationally televised game,' " said Brown. "There is discussion when we have a choice on back-to-backs that we are mindful that there is a home game versus an away game. There are some calculations that are involved in that decision. Not entirely, but it's part of it. Just because it was a nationally televised game it did not influence our desire to cram him back into a game. We were playing well. He felt well. The whole stable of doctors we had around him gave him thumbs-up. No, is the short answer."

Perhaps shelving Embiid gives the team a better chance to showcase the likes of Jahlil Okafor - who went for 15 points and four rebounds Monday - or Nerlens Noel, who had another solid game coming off the bench, spurring a 28-12 third quarter run against the Kings while contributing 12 points in 24 minutes.

This isn't totally out of the question. After all, Brown said Sunday that Okafor wasn't really in game shape after sitting out with knee soreness of his own and missing the previous four games. Yet there he was in the starting lineup Monday and logging 21 minutes of action.

"Like a star," is what Brown said when asked how Okafor has handled his spotty minutes. "I can't be any more complimentary of a player. I don't remember, young or old, somebody that has still embraced the team, found a way to hold his head high and continue to work. My appreciation and respect for Jahlil Okafor has grown tremendously as I step back and see how he handles this situation and feel his body language. He's a great person that still maintains that balance of being competitive and wanting what's best for Jahlil Okafor and still being a hell of a teammate."

Maybe, just maybe, the organization is really happy with the growth of the players, but too much winning could come at the expense of a higher draft pick. Playoffs weren't something that could have even been considered after Ben Simmons got hurt on the last day of training camp, and probably not before that, either. While winning is a priority, trying to do it with less talent on the floor is something that has been practiced here for three seasons before this, and it's paid off well for them.

"We've all looked at each other for three years and each year it gets more stable," said Brown. "Each year, it gets more balanced. Each year, the roster has more symmetry, it's more sub-able. You can see how you play this thing out. Each year, it's gotten a little bit more defined and I expect it to be expedited to that same type of level next year. Whether we're all going to look then and say, 'Yup, there we are, we got it.' I can't promise that, but I believe that there is a path that we've been going on and I think that will follow suit next year."

It is a process after all, and that particular result hasn't been reached. To get there, maybe Embiid has to sit more than fans would like this year.

The definition of trust: Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.

cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog