PHILADELPHIA — When the NBA injury report came out Friday, 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid (left knee soreness) was listed as doubtful for Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Nets on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center. The Nets won’t believe it until they see it at the opening tipoff.
After practice Friday at the Nets’ training facility, center Jarrett Allen was asked about reports that Embiid might not play. “It’s that time of year everybody wants to play,” he said. “So I think he’s going to be out there.”
Embiid was rested for 14 of the Sixers’ final 24 games as a matter of “load management” meant to reduce stress on his knee. They were 7-7 without him and 7-3 with him, including a home win over the Nets in which Embiid was utterly dominant with 39 points and 13 rebounds. If he was hurting, it certainly didn’t show.
Coach Brett Brown told reporters he would have no comment on the injury beyond a news release, but he dealt with an Embiid injury during the playoffs last season and said he’s prepared to do so again.
“I’m excited in a positive way,” Brown said. “I have the best team I’ve ever coached, and we’re excited to play Brooklyn.”
At the same time, he said the 76ers are “completely different” without Embiid. Without him, they likely will rely on the shooting of Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick and Mike Scott along with the distributing of point guard Ben Simmons. Brown has replacements for Embiid, including 7-3, 290-pound Boban Marjanovic along with Jonah Bolden, Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson.
“We still have enough,” Brown insisted.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson prepared for Embiid. “There is a game plan in place,” he said. “We understand Embiid is the head of the snake. We have to slow him down. Keeping him off the free-throw line is going to be huge.”