The extent of Joel Embiid’s availability is perhaps the biggest 76ers story line entering the regular season.
It was obvious that, as of Monday afternoon, the Sixers hadn’t discussed a minutes restriction with their franchise center. That’s when Brett Brown was asked how many minutes a game Embiid is expected to play at the start of the season.
“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” the coach said after practice, adding, “If you were to choose a number, it would be somewhere like in the teens.”
Thirty or so minutes after Brown spoke, Embiid walked over to the media. He said he was excited about the season, before saying, “I hope they don’t have me on a minutes restriction.”
A reporter then told him what Brown had said.
“Ah, [shoot],” Embiid said. “I didn’t know about that. But that’s disappointing. I feel great, and hopefully that changes based on this practice and tomorrow’s practice.”
Embiid played 14 minutes, 45 seconds in Wednesday’s preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets in Uniondale, N.Y. He followed it with 14:33 in Friday’s game vs. the Miami Heat in Kansas City. Those were his first two games since Jan. 27 because of a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The Sixers will open the season Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards at the Capital One Arena.
Brown hopes that he’ll be able to play around 32 minutes a game by January.
Embiid said his conditioning is getting better. He pointed out that all his minutes against the Heat came in the first half.
“So I felt like I could have played 30 minutes,” he said. “I felt good. So I think it’s coming. I’m still not there, but my body’s getting in better shape. I feel great.”
Embiid said he will lobby to remain in close games past his time limit.
“I got a voice,” he said. “They got to listen to me. … If I feel great and my body feels great and my knee is fine, I should play 30 minutes or more. I definitely have my opinion on that.
“They are going to hear me. We are going to discuss it.”
But Embiid added that he trusts the Sixers and the team doctors. So he said, you have to “trust the process.”
Embiid’s playing time was held to 22:25 in last year’s season opener against Oklahoma City. He was on a minutes restriction then because he had missed the previous two seasons with navicular bone surgeries in his right foot.
Reserve center Jahlil Okafor missed Monday’s practice with a gastrointestinal illness.