The next step for Joel Embiid is being cleared to play on back-to-back days.
The 76ers center said after Thursday’s practice that he had no idea when he would be cleared to play on consecutive nights.
“I’m actually going to ask them the question,” Embiid said, referring to the team’s medical staff. “Hopefully, I get to play in back-to-backs.”
This Sixers’ first back-to-back comes this weekend. They’ll entertain the Boston Celtics in Friday’s home opener at the Wells Fargo Center, then play the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. If the franchise player sits out a game, it would most likely be the road contest.
Embiid didn’t play on consecutive nights last season because of his right foot. He had two operations on the navicular bone, preventing him from playing in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
The possible holdup this season for Embiid is his left knee. He has played five-on-five basketball for only two weeks after being sidelined since Jan. 27 because of a torn meniscus in the knee.
Sixers coach Brett Brown meets with the team’s medical staff every morning to go over what the 23-year-old is available to do. A lot of it depends on how his body responds to what he did the day before.
Embiid played 26 minutes, 57 seconds in Wednesday’s 120-115 season-opening loss to the Washington Wizards. He believes he’s ready to handle playing around 26 minutes a night on consecutive days.
“Yesterday I played, and my body feels great today,” Embiid said. “My knee feels amazing. So I feel like if I have to play today, I would play depending on how I feel. But I feel like I’m ready.”
He actually played eight minutes longer than expected.
During the game, the Sixers sports science staff monitored how Embiid responded to the pace of play. There were only a chunk of minutes when they deemed the game was played at a torrid pace while he was on the floor. They also took into account that he rested for 24 real-time minutes when he left the game at end of the third quarter.
“When I put him back in the fourth quarter, in their judgment, that warranted he could play the last four minutes,” Brown said. “It all equaled the number that kind of surprised all of us.”
However, Brown acknowledged that Embiid probably wouldn’t have played 27 minutes Wednesday in a fast-paced game against an up-tempo opponent.
So the Sixers may have a couple of options this weekend.
They could decide to limit his minutes regardless of how he feels in Friday’s game. That could ensure that he’ll be fresh enough to play in both of this weekend’s games. The team could also do what it did on Wednesday. Then based on how his body recovers, they could make a decision Saturday morning about that night’s game.
Right now, the Sixers are focused on eliminating miscues against the Celtics (0-2). Their guards had a tough time keeping their opponents in front of them during Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards. The Sixers also committed 17 turnovers with five coming in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers by Jerryd Bayless and Robert Covington on consecutive possessions with the team trailing by two points were crushing.
Boston, meanwhile, looks differently from the team the Sixers expected they would face this season.
Gordon Hayward, this team’s top free-agent signee, is out and will likely miss the remainder of the season.
The swingman suffered a dislocated left ankle and fractured tibia in Tuesday night’s nationally televised TNT game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hayward attempted to catch an alley-oop pass midway through the first quarter. However, he came down awkwardly after colliding with LeBron James. His foot was twisted.
Rookie Jayson Tatum is expected to start at swingman for the rest of the season.