Brett Brown Announces Joel Embiid Will Start in Preseason Opener

Brett Brown plans to start Joel Embiid at center when the Sixers open up their preseason schedule Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.

Brett Brown plans to start Joel Embiid at center when the Sixders open up their preseason schedule Tuesday against the Boston Celtics | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Brown plans to start Joel Embiid at center when the Sixers open up their preseason schedule Tuesday against the Boston Celtics. | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic, Sixers head coach Brett Brown unveiled who he plans to start when the Sixers open up their preseason schedule next Tuesday against the Boston Celtics in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The lineup: Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid.

Note: Simmons rolled his ankle today while scrimmaging at training camp. Whether or not he starts will be dependent upon his availability, something Brown says he hopes to have more information on later tonight.

The most surprising part of that starting lineup is the presence of Joel Embiid. Not because Embiid isn’t somebody that the team clearly views as a starter down the line, but because of how long it’s been since he’s played basketball (March 1st, 2014), and the fact that the team has repeatedly stated their desire to bring him along slowly.

The lineup includes neither Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor at the power forward spot, leaving the Sixers two other highly-talented centers to come off the bench, at least for the time being. While Brown stressed that “nobody should read anything into that, that’s a ground zero starting point,” it will be interesting to see whether Okafor and Noel will be okay coming off of the bench if that does continue.

Still, the minutes restriction Embiid will be under to start the year should open up minutes for both Okafor and Noel, and while neither will start at the power forward position (at least initially), it is still likely that one (or both) will accumulate some minutes out of position to try to get all three of them adequate playing time.

“I’m going with him in like 4 minute bursts,” Brown said when talking about how he plans on handling Embiid’s minutes. “So much of it is ‘I want you to push yourself to the absolute max, how can I get the best of you for short durations and grow your fitness base?’

“I think that I’m at a stage where I can get 4, maybe 5 but definitely 4, minutes where he just flies up and down the court and is going 100%, offensively and defensively,” Brown said when talking about Embiid’s conditioning. “Then at that point you can just see it. There’s a fatigue factor, an unfamiliarity with the speed of the game that creeps in quite quickly. So 4 minute bursts is sort of the fence that I’ve put him in right now.”

While Brown notes that he’s currently limiting Embiid to short bursts until he gets acclimated to the speed of the game, he notes that he’s coming along quickly.

“You see him challenged with the speed of plays, making immediate, reactionary type moves and decisions at warp speed, at real time,” Brown said. “It’s just something that he hasn’t had the opportunity to do for a few years. So it’s coming, but it’s coming quick.”

Perhaps most important of all, Brown said that Embiid is having no complications with his twice surgically repaired right foot.

“There isn’t. You don’t see it at all. You don’t see it once,” Brown said when about whether Embiid’s favoring his foot at all.

“The elite competitiveness, that fierce competitive side of Joel I think rules the day. It trumps everything for me,” Brown said. “He really loves playing basketball, and he’s just so highly competitive.”

You can listen to the full interview at

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.