Jerryd Bayless Returns, Jahlil Okafor’s Minutes Restriction Lifted

Jerryd Bayless, signed in the offseason to be the Sixers starting point guard, will make his season debut tonight against the Miami Heat.

Sixers point guard Jerryd Bayless could be getting closer to returning to play | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers point guard Jerryd Bayless made his season debut for the Sixers tonight. | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Sixers played the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night the team announced that Jerryd Bayless would be available to play. The team had previously upgraded his status to probable earlier in the day.

Bayless, who was signed to a three-year, $27-million contract over the offseason to be the team’s starting point guard, suffered an injury to his left wrist during training camp.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown noted before the game that Bayless is still experiencing some discomfort in the wrist, but has been reassured that he is not at an increased injury risk by playing through the soreness.

“He’s sort of, I don’t know, gone against doctor’s opinion at times. He’s trying to gut through this and come back. I respect his toughness for wanting to come in and play,” Brown said about Bayless’ return before the game. “It’s certainly not comfortable for him right now, but everybody says it’s not anything that he’s going to make worse.”

Brown noted that Bayless will come off the bench for the time being in order to get back into game shape, and get acclimated with his new teammates.

“I’m going to bring him in behind Sergio [Rodriguez, the starting point guard] at the start and just sort of see how he’s doing, how he’s feeling. It’s very much an assessment to see his pain tolerance and see how healthy the wrist is,” Brown said. “Even if it were 100%, there’s still that element of sort of slowly introducing him back to a team that he’s never played with, and playing NBA basketball. Again he hasn’t played since Stockton, [since] training camp.”

Bayless averaged 10.4 points and 3.1 assists last season for the Milwaukee Bucks, while connecting on 43.7 percent of his three-point attempts, the best shooting season of his career. He shot 47.5 percent on no-dribble three-point shots last year, which ranked as one of the best rates in the league.

Jahlil Okafor no longer on a minutes restriction

In addition to Bayless’ return, head coach Brett Brown received some good news in that second-year center Jahlil Okafor will no longer being under a minutes restriction. Okafor had previously been limited to 24-minutes per game as he worked his way back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus last spring.

Still, while the team’s medical staff is no longer limiting Okafor’s availability, Brown noted that Okafor’s conditioning would determine exactly how much time he’d receive.

“I think that with Jahlil it’s more of a question of increasing his fitness,” Brown said before the game. “Even though the minute restriction has been lifted, because he hasn’t been able to go 100% always in practice and in the games, and now he’s able to do that recently, there’s a cardio and a fitness thing that also has to be factored in.”

Still, the doctors lifting the restriction allows Brown the flexibility to play to the flow of the game. And as Okafor’s minutes increase ever-so-slightly, the possibility of Okafor and Embiid playing together increases as well. The pair have only been on the court together for a grand total of two minutes heading into tonight’s game against the Heat.

“I hope to see those two together. I’ve been looking at playing those two together for a while,” Brown said. “For the obvious reasons that we’ve all talked about, with the minute restrictions, it just wasn’t smart.”

Even with that, Brown cautioned that using the two together would only be used in certain advantageous matchups.

“I think we all have to be mindful of when you look at teams, some teams it’s not smart to have that matchup. When you get into an athletic, fast, 4-man, well, you might have some problems,” Brown said. “The easy out, and not necessarily the truth, is, well, they have to guard you too. Now there’s a hint of truth, but I think it’s tilted on the other side where you have to find some stops and you have to guard them.

“My ultimate wish is to play them and have them on the floor when the matchups warrant, and I’m looking forward to it. I think everybody is,” Brown concluded.

Okafor averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 30 minutes per game in an injury-shortened rookie season last year. He has averaged 10.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes per game so far this year, mostly off the bench.

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